On Friday, the Washington Post published (on page 23) an article based on an 11-page letter smuggled out of Egypt. -- The letter offers a first-hand account of how a Muslim cleric was kidnapped by CIA agents in Milan and taken to Egypt, where he was tortured (though the Post can't bring itself to use that word). -- In the New York Times, Abu Omar was "a militant" rather than "a radical." -- An account of the letter in the London Telegraph was much more graphic than the ones offered by the Times and the Post. -- For background on this case, see here or type "Abu Omar" in the search box of the UFPPC web site....
IN LETTER, RADICAL CLERIC DETAILS CIA ABDUCTION, EGYPTIAN TORTURE
By Craig Whitlock
November 10, 2006
MILAN -- In an account smuggled out of prison, a radical Muslim cleric has detailed how he was kidnapped by the CIA from this northern Italian city and flown to Cairo, where he was tortured for months with electric shocks and shackled to an iron rack known as "the Bride."
Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, wrote an 11-page letter describing his 2003 abduction at the hands of the CIA and Italian secret service agents. He somehow transferred the document out of Egypt -- where he remains in custody -- and into the hands of Italian prosecutors who are investigating his disappearance.
The Milan public prosecutor's office on Thursday confirmed the authenticity of the letter, the existence of which was first reported by the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera.
The document has been submitted as evidence to defense attorneys representing 25 CIA officers, a U.S. Air Force officer, and nine Italian agents who have been charged with organizing the kidnapping of Nasr, an Egyptian national, in February 2003.
A copy of the document, handwritten in Arabic, was obtained by the Washington Post. Undated, it reads like a homemade legal affidavit, outlining how Nasr was seized as he was walking to a mosque in Milan, stuffed into a van, and rushed to Egypt in a covert operation involving spies from three countries.
"I didn't understand anything about what was going on," Nasr wrote. "They began to punch me in the stomach and all over my body. They wrapped my entire head and face with wide tape, and cut holes over my nose and face so I could breathe."
Upon his arrival in Egypt hours later, he said, he was taken into a room by an Egyptian security official who told him that "two pashas" wanted to speak with him.
"Only one spoke, an Egyptian," he recalled. "And all he said was, 'Do you want to collaborate with us?'" Nasr said the other "pasha" appeared to be an American. His captors offered a deal: They would allow him to return to Italy if he agreed to become an informant. Nasr said he refused. As a result, he said, he was interrogated and physically abused for the next 14 months in two Cairo prisons.
Italian prosecutors charge that the CIA and the Italian military intelligence agency known as Sismi collaborated to kidnap Nasr, who was known for preaching radical sermons in Milan and railing against U.S. policies in Afghanistan and the Middle East. According to prosecutors, the abduction thwarted a separate Italian police investigation into Nasr's activities and jeopardized a surveillance operation concerning other radicals in Milan.
Court papers allege that the kidnapping was orchestrated by the CIA's station chief in Rome and involved at least two dozen CIA operatives, most of whom arrived in Italy months before to lay the groundwork. Italian judges have issued arrest warrants for the CIA officers and have pledged to try them in absentia if necessary.
Although the case has caused a furor in Italy, the U.S. government has neither confirmed nor denied playing a role in Nasr's disappearance. Egyptian officials have also remained silent. A CIA spokesman declined to comment for this story.
Nasr's wife and his lawyer in Cairo have said the cleric is still imprisoned in Egypt, although he has been released under house arrest for brief periods. It is unclear how Italian prosecutors received a copy of his letter. Investigators said handwriting experts have verified that Nasr was the author.
Prosecutors in Milan are also investigating allegations that Italian spies offered to give Nasr $2.5 million if he would sign papers saying he had left Italy voluntarily and was not kidnapped, according to Italian news reports.
The imam of a Milan mosque where Nasr preached on occasion said he also recognized the handwriting as the Egyptian's. "This is his writing, I know it for sure," said the imam, Arman Ahmed al-Hissini, who is known locally as Abu Imad and runs the Viale Jenner mosque, a few blocks from where Nasr was kidnapped.
Abdel Hamid Shaari, president of the Islamic Cultural Center in Milan, said he was worried that the public disclosure of Nasr's letter could jeopardize his life, or at least dash any chances that he might be released. "What are they going to do with him now?" Shaari said. "He's a problem for the Italians, the Egyptians, and the Americans."
In his letter, Nasr described how his health had badly deteriorated. He had lost hearing in one ear from repeated beatings, he said, and his formerly pitch-black hair had turned all white. He said he was kept in a cell with no toilet and no lights, where "roaches and rats walked across my body."
He also gave a graphic account of Egyptian interrogation practices, including how he would be strapped to an iron rack nicknamed "the Bride" and zapped with electric stun guns.
On other occasions, he wrote, he was tied to a wet mattress on the floor. While one interrogator sat on a wooden chair perched on the prisoner's shoulders, another interrogator would flip a switch, sending jolts of electricity into the mattress coils.
EGYPTIAN SAYS HE WAS TORTURED AFTER BEING KIDNAPPED IN MILAN
By Elisabetta Povoledo
New York Times
November 11, 2006
ROME -- A militant Egyptian cleric who prosecutors say was kidnapped by the Central Intelligence Agency said in a newly published account that he was tortured with electric shocks while he lay on a wet mattress in a Cairo prison and was repeatedly beaten and forced to eat rotten bread in a pitch-black cell, while rats and cockroaches ran over his body.
The clerics recounting was contained in an affidavit given to Italian prosecutors investigating his alleged abduction. Excerpts were published in a Milan daily newspaper, Corriere della Sera, on Thursday.
I am writing my testimony from this, my tomb, writes Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar, at the start of an 11-page letter that was excerpted Thursday by the newspaper. His face has been transformed, he claims, as a result of the torture.
Milanese prosecutors have appended the account to the case they are building against 39 people, including 25 C.I.A. operatives. Prosecutors accuse them of abducting Mr. Nasr and sending him to Egypt for questioning, in the American practice of rendition. Members of the Italian secret services, including Nicolo Pollari, the countrys top spy, are also under investigation in the kidnapping, which took place in Milan in February 2003.
Earlier this year, an Italian military police officer confessed to having participated in the kidnapping, which he believed was jointly organized by the American and Italian intelligence services.
In the letter, Mr. Nasr says he was stopped by an American, asked for his documents and then forced into a white van where he was beaten on my stomach and my entire body before being bound and gagged and taken to Cairo by plane.
In the Cairo prison, he says, he was subjected to weeks of torture while he was being interrogated. It lasted seven months, he wrote, but it felt like seven years. His wife, Nabila, told Milanese prosecutors that Egyptian officials had tried to bribe her husband so he would deny that he had been kidnapped.
Writing from Egypt, she said that her husband had been offered $2 million to say that he had not been kidnapped and to say that he had come of his own free will to Egypt, the Milan newspaper reported Friday.
Milanese prosecutors have asked that the United States extradite the 25 operatives they believe organized and executed the kidnapping.
I WAS TORTURED IN CELL AFTER KIDNAP BY CIA, SAYS MUSLIM CLERIC
By Malcolm Moore
November 11, 2006
ROME -- A Muslim cleric has claimed to have been tortured with electric shocks, left in a cell where rats crawled on him, and threatened with rape after he was allegedly kidnapped from a Milan street by CIA agents three years ago.
The claims of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, appeared in an affidavit provided to Milan prosecutors investigating his alleged abduction in February 2003, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported yesterday.
Prosecutors say that the cleric, who was formerly suspected of links to terrorism, was driven to the Aviano military air base and flown via Germany to his native Egypt before being secretly interrogated for six months.
His 11-page, hand-written prison diary, reported to be the basis of his affidavit, includes a series of claims which if true would reveal an extraordinary insight into the "rendition" process practised by intelligence services.
In the diary, Abu Omar tells of how he was grabbed by two Italians and bundled into a van in daylight. Subsequently he says he was flown to Egypt, thrown in a cell, and tortured.
He wrote: "Here, they told me, the flies don't even come. When I asked for the toilet, they told me to go in my cell. There was an incredible stench. I remained there for six and a half months, at Amn El Dawla. The cell was without air, cockroaches and rats crawled over me. When the guard entered, I had to be on my knees or he would jolt me with an electric cattle prod."
Abu Omar is currently being held at a police station in Alexandria, Egypt. His allegations were reportedly smuggled out of the Egyptian prison and given to Milan prosecutors by an Egyptian contact in Milan. They contradict the version of events presented in the Rome parliament by the Italian military intelligence chief, Nicolo Pollari, who said the kidnapping had been "faked."
The diary will be used as evidence in a court hearing involving 35 spies, including 26 CIA agents, all believed to have since left Italy, who are accused by prosecutors of participating in the kidnapping by Italian prosecutors of kidnapping.
State investigators have also opened a separate inquiry into claims that Abu Omar was offered money on his return to Italy to keep quiet about his alleged ordeal.
The diary paints a vivid picture of the various forms of torture he claims to have suffered, resulted in him losing his hearing in one ear and his hair and beard turning white. "I write this testimony from the inside of this tomb. I am skinny, my illnesses are worse, I am in a critical condition," he wrote. "To eat there was only stale bread, which was covered in sand which hurt the teeth.
"At the beginning, the guards stripped me nude and give me shocks with their cattle prods. One grabbed my private parts and mashed them when I would not talk. They stretched me over an iron gate, kicked me, attached electric wires to me, and threw cold water over me."