Who is Abu Omar? Extracts from the Italian Police Surveillance Tapes

Who is Abu Omar? Extracts from the Italian Police Surveillance Tapes

Twenty-six Americans are presently being tried in absentia in an Italian court for the 2003 abduction of the Egyptian cleric Osama Mostafa Hassan Nasr: better known, as "Abu Omar." The Americans are accused of having kidnapped Nasr as part of the CIA's program of "extraordinary renditions." They are supposed to have held him in an American military base before "rendering" him to Egypt for interrogation. Seven Italian intelligence officials who allegedly aided in the operation have been charged as well.

Last month, the New York Times, Associated Press, and Los Angeles Times all ran stories citing in dramatic and sometimes excruciating detail from the testimony of Nasr's wife Nabila Ghali. Ghali claimed that her husband had been tortured by his Egyptian captors. He was, she said, subjected to electric shocks "all over his body," including his genitals.

The American news organizations did not bother noting that the testimony amounted to hearsay, nor did they bother asking why Nasr -- who is in the meanwhile again a free man -- did not return to Italy to testify himself. According to some earlier Italian reports, Egyptian authorities have prohibited Nasr from leaving the country. But whether or not this is so, it can well be doubted that he would want to return to Italy under present circumstances in any case. For, as so happens, Osama Mostafa Hassan Nasr, alias Abu Omar, is himself the subject of an Italian arrest warrant. The charge: involvement in international terrorism.

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