Saturday, February 17, 2007

Rendition Case Released

An Egyptian who is at the heart of a CIA controversy in Italy was released by Egyptian officials after nearly three years in Egyptian detention. The BBC is reporting that Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr ("Abu Omar") was now with his family. Click here for the BBC story. The Washington Post story adds that Abu Omar is considering a lawsuit against those involved in his kidnapping.

In mid-2004, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr was abducted on a street in Milan and allegedly driven to the US air base in Aviano, Italy, interrogated, drugged and taken to the US military base in Ramstein in Germany. From there he was flown to Egypt, where he was allegedly tortured, including with electric shocks. A year later, an Italian judge ordered 25 CIA officials to be indicted for involvement in the illegal rendition; however none have been arrested and are ever expected to be so.

The BBC story says Abu Omar continues to allege he was tortured while in detention. He was said to have been charged with membership in an illegal organization, but he never was convicted of anything while in detention.

Now that Abu Omar has been released, it's time to ask what did the United States gain from his rendition and torture? The world isn't any safer, but it is different. Reportedly, the rendition interrupted an ongoing Italian investigation into Abu Omar, which could have brought appropriate criminal charges against the cleric. But these days, waiting for legitimate judicial processes to do its work seems, well, quaint.

Later this month, the U.S. State Department will release its annual human rights report, which likely will criticize Egypt for its record of systematic torture. The HR report used to be something Egyptian activists looked forward to and something that brought angry condemnations from Egyptian officials. This year, reading the section on torture can only bring sadness to activists and laughter from the government officials; both will know the depths of U.S. complicity in the very abuses it criticizes.

It's hard to figure out whether to focus on moral concerns about rendition or the straight-forward political nuts-and-bolts aspects of the policy. On either end, the policy is a loser.

Click here to see a "Denounce Torture" Amnesty action on this case.

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