Jeffrey Castelli, the CIA’s former Rome station chief, was sentenced in Italy Friday to seven years in jail for his part in the abduction of an al Qaeda suspect off a Milan street in 2003.
The sentence will have no effect unless Castelli enters Italian or other territories that have extradition treaties with Rome, thus subjecting himself to arrest.
Two other CIA operatives, Betnie Medero and Ralph Russomando, were also both sentenced to six years in jail for their parts in the caper.
Update: Italian prosecutor Armando Spataro told SpyTalk the verdicts gave him no joy.
“It’s difficult for a prosecutor to rejoice at the sentence of some people," Spataro said by e-mail from Milan.
"But it’s important for the defense of human rights what the Milan Appeal Court said with the verdict: There are no reasons to justify kidnappings and torture of the people. Not even if the democracies want to protect themselves from the terrorism.”
A lower court had convicted 23 other Americans, all but one a CIA agent, on kidnapping charges in November 2009. Castelli, Medero and Russomando had been acquitted on grounds of diplomatic immunity.
Italian prosecutors appealed that verdict. The defendants can now appeal Friday's decision to the Court of Cassation, Italy's supreme court.
The case centered on the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" of an Egyptian citizen, known as Abu Omar, from Milan to Cairo for interrogation. Upon release three years later, he claimed he was tortured and showed reporters multiple scars on his back.
Italian counterterrorism police were listening when he called his wife in Milan and described his kidnapping. With those details, they were easily able to track down the cell phone calls of the CIA snatch team and and trace the phones to their hotels and rental cars.
Another CIA officer officially listed as a U.S. diplomat in Milan at the time, Sabrina De Sousa, was convicted in the case.
Since then she has waged a pubic campaign to clear her name, refusing to admit she was a CIA employee and demanding that the State Department defend her.
"I think the number one thing that needs to become public is that Washington is not going to have anyone's back," De Sousa said in an interview with Gawker Media yesterday. "I'm an accredited diplomat. And that's why other people should know what's going on: Washington's going to throw them out to the battlefield without any protection anymore."
The CIA has consistently refused to comment on the case.