The long-drawn saga of an Indian-American ex- CIA agent may have come to an end March 1, when she was not extradited to Italy from Portugal to serve time in jail.
Sabrina De Sousa, who was convicted in Italy in the 2003 kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric wanted by the U.S., was detained Feb. 20, in Lisbon airport when she was about to visit India where her mother lives. De Sousa has claimed her innocence over the years and even sued the CIA but lost the case.
De Sousa tweeted to President Trump after her release, “THANKYOU!! Your admin did more on my case in the last 30 days than was done in prior 8 years!” the Associated Press reported. Former Michigan Congressman Peter Hoekstra, who is De Sousa’s spokesperson confirmed to AP that the Trump administration was involved in his client’s release. Hoekstra said he had worked with “a number of different agencies/groups within the (Trump) administration,” and with former Congressional colleagues.
“The administration was totally responsive, professional, focused,” Hoekstra said in an email to AP, as was the U.S. embassy in Lisbon.
The Indian-American was reportedly acting under the secret U.S. rendition plan carried out during the George W. Bush administration, in which suspected terrorists were captured and taken to other countries for interrogation. She was one of 26 Americans convicted by an Italian court, of nabbing Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, aka Abu Omar. Nasr was taken to Egypt where he remained in prison for four years before being released. He claimed he had been tortured at a military base.
De Sousa’s lawyer Manuel Magalhaes told Reuters that his client was in the Lisbon airport March 1 waiting to be handed over to Italy. “But (she) is no longer there,” Magalhaes said.
According to news reports, President Sergio Mattarella of Italy granted De Sousa a “partial clemency” by reducing her sentence, barely 24 hours before her departure from Lisbon for Italy. The reasons given by Italy included the fact that the Obama administration had halted the rendition program.
“She is at the Judiciary Police in Lisbon now, but will be released today,” Magalhaes told Reuters, adding, “The Milan prosecutor revoked the detention order. The Italian Interpol agents who are here to extradite her have been informed and the extradition is no longer happening.”
De Sousa, who resigned from the CIA in 2009, was convicted by the Italian court in-absentia and sentenced to four years in prison. She returned to Portugal in 2015, and was arrested Feb. 20 in Lisbon while trying to fly to India. Several of De Sousa’s former colleagues had been granted a pardon by Italy, and her lawyer has been requesting the same treatment for his client, the Times reported.
Born in Goa and brought up in Mumbai, De Sousa sued the State Department demanding she should have been given diplomatic immunity. She lost her lawsuit. She has in an interview with McClatchy News Service July 27, 2013, claimed she played no role in the kidnapping and was on a ski trip at that time. She also said that the CIA had “inflated the threat the preacher (Abu Omar) posed and that the United States then allowed Italy to prosecute her and other Americans to shield President George W. Bush and other U.S. officials from responsibility for approving the operation,” the McClatchy news report said.
(Editor’s Note: This post was revised and updated on 3/2/2017.)