Ex-CIA agent freed in Portugal, avoids extradition to Italy

LISBON, Portugal (AP) " An American ex-CIA agent won a last-minute reprieve from a Lisbon court Wednesday and will no longer be extradited from Portugal to Italy, where a court convicted her of taking part in the kidnapping of a Muslim cleric.

The court ruled that Sabrina de Sousa must be released immediately since Italy had cancelled its detention and extradition request for her. The court provided its ruling to The Associated Press.

The decision came hours before de Sousa was due to be extradited and a day after Italy's president granted her a partial clemency. President Sergio Mattarella late Tuesday shaved one year off her four-year sentence for her role in the abduction of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nas. Also known as Abu Omar, he was kidnapped from a Milan street in February 2003.

Neither de Sousa nor her Portuguese lawyer was immediately available for comment.

It was not clear whether de Sousa, who holds dual U.S.-Portuguese citizenship, will ask to serve the remaining three years of her sentence in Portugal. Under Italian law, she could remain under house arrest or carry out approved social services instead of serving prison time.

De Sousa was arrested on a European warrant at Lisbon airport in October 2015 while en route to India to visit her mother. She has said she had been living in Portugal and intended to settle there.

She repeatedly fought her extradition and lost several appeals after her arrest. De Sousa denied involvement in the kidnapping and argued she was never officially informed of the Italian court conviction and could not use confidential U.S. government information to defend herself.

She had her passport confiscated but remained free in Portugal until last week, when she was detained so she could be processed for extradition.

The kidnapping was carried out under the United States' "extraordinary rendition" anti-terrorism program, which was launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The program saw suspects kidnapped and transferred to centers abroad, where they were interrogated and often tortured.

Mattarella said that in reaching his decision on de Sousa's clemency he took into account "that the United States has interrupted the practice of extraordinary renditions," a reference to the Obama administration's decision to halt the program.

Mattarella and his predecessor cited the same circumstances in previously granting clemency to other defendants in the case. De Sousa was one of 26 Americans who were tried and convicted in absentia for the cleric's kidnapping.

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Associated Press Writer Frances D'Emilio contributed to this story from Rome.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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