Indian American ex-CIA officer detained in Portugal in spy case

Sabrina De Sousa, ex-CIA officer convicted in Italy for the alleged kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in 2003 (Photo: Washington Post)

Sabrina De Sousa, an ex-CIA officer who is a native of India and holds a Portuguese and U.S. nationality, made yet another unsuccessful attempt to visit her relatives in India from Portugal. She was arrested Feb. 20, in Lisbon, according to news reports, in relation to a 2003 kidnapping of a Egyptian cleric in Italy.

De Sousa has claimed in news reports that she was under diplomatic cover in Milan. She is expected to be extradited to Italy to face a prison sentence, the New York Times reported quoting Portuguese news media reports.

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 in Feb. 2003. 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, 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.