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Sat Apr 6, 2013 8:8AM
Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar

Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar

Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano has pardoned, without presenting a justifiable reason, a US Air Force colonel, who has been convicted in absentia of the abduction and illegal imprisonment of an Egyptian Muslim cleric. Napolitano's office said in a statement on Friday that the president had granted the pardon "in hopes of giving a solution to a situation to an affair considered by the United States to be without precedent because of the aspect of convicting a US military officer of Nato for deeds committed on Italian soil." Napolitano said he had pardoned Joseph Romano because the US and Italy are close allies and share the ‘common goal of promoting democracy.’ This is while the move to pardon the US convict is believed to be unjustifiable in concrete terms. Romano was one of the 23 Americans tried and sentenced by Italian courts over the operation to kidnap Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, in 2003. Italian courts convicted 22 CIA personnel in the Abu Omar case. The CIA agents are believed to be living in the United States. They are unlikely to serve their sentences. Romano was the only American convicted who was not a CIA employee. Abu Omar, who was abducted in a joint operation by the CIA and the Italian military intelligence agency SISMI, enjoyed political asylum in Italy at the time. He was allegedly taken to a US air base in northeastern Italy and then transferred to a US base in Germany and subsequently to Cairo. Romano was the security chief of northern Italy's Aviano airbase, where Abu Omar was taken to. The Muslim cleric, who was released in 2007, says he was tortured in prison by his kidnappers. YH/HN/HJL
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