Portuguese appeals court has ordered the extradition of a former CIA officer to Italy, where she was convicted in absentia for her role in the rendition of a terrorism suspect and faces four years in prison.
Sabrina De Sousa, a U.S. and Portuguese citizen, traveled in April to Lisbon, where she and her husband spend part of the year.
But in October, when she went to the airport to travel to the Indian state of Goa to visit her ailing mother, De Sousa was arrested when authorities saw an alert that she was wanted in Italy.
In an interview Friday morning, De Sousa said she was surprised by the court’s decision this week and will appeal the ruling to Portugal’s Supreme Court. If she loses there, she can take her case to the country’s Constitutional Court. She will not be sent to Italy until she exhausts her judicial options, she said.
“I am really shocked,” said De Sousa, whose U.S. and Portuguese passports have been seized. “From what I understood, extradition was off the table because it was a trial in absentia. I was not served or told of the charges against me and had zero opportunity to defend myself adequately because the U.S. did not acknowledge the rendition took place and the evidence was classified. Italy also covered all pertinent evidence with ‘state secrets.’ ”
The CIA declined to comment.
De Sousa was one of more than 20 Americans, mostly CIA officials, convicted in absentia by Italian courts for their roles in kidnapping Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, off a street in Milan in 2003. At the time, De Sousa was registered in Italy as a State Department official at the U.S. Consulate in Milan but actually served as a CIA officer.
On Feb. 17, 2003, Omar left his Milan apartment and was snatched, thrown into a van and flown to Egypt, where he was beaten and shocked with electricity, he said after his release. De Sousa has said she was chaperoning her son’s ski trip in northern Italy that day. She also has said that the rendition was approved and orchestrated by higher-ranking CIA officials in Rome and the United States and had the blessing of Italian intelligence officials.
But De Sousa also has acknowledged that she worked as an “interpreter” for the CIA “snatch” team that visited Milan and coordinated with Italian authorities.
Italian prosecutors insist that De Sousa has always understated her role in Abu Omar’s rendition. In 2005, they charged her and several other CIA employees for their roles in the kidnapping, embarrassing the agency and exposing a rift between allies.
In 2009, 23 Americans – many of them using aliases – were convicted in absentia, but none has served any prison time.
That year, De Sousa sued the Justice Department and the CIA for not invoking diplomatic immunity on her behalf, but her case was dismissed.
De Sousa knew she was taking a risk by flying to Europe in the spring of 2015. But she said she thought that if she were arrested and threatened with extradition to Italy, U.S. and Italian officials would grant her clemency and reopen the investigation into Abu Omar’s kidnapping.
– The Washington Post