- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

MILAN (AP) - The prosecutor in the trial of 26 Americans and seven Italians charged in the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric said Friday he is confident the trial will go on, despite a court ruling throwing out some key evidence.

Prosecutor Armando Spataro said he does not believe that the Constitutional Court’s ruling invalidates the indictments against the defendants in the 2004 disappearance of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, allegedly kidnapped as part of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program.

The court this week sided with Italy’s government and ruled that prosecutors used classified information to build the case that led to the indictments. The state’s attorney, Massimo Giannuzzi, told The Associated Press that prosecutors would have to seek new indictments based on the remaining evidence.

But Spataro had another interpretation. “My opinion is that the indictments are not touched by this decision,” he said.

Ultimately, Judge Oscar Magi, who has been hearing the kidnapping case, will decide how to proceed.

The trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday, but Spataro said he expects it to be suspended for several weeks until the Constitutional Court issues its full ruling.

The American suspects _ all but one identified by prosecutors as CIA agents _ were accused along with seven Italian agents of kidnapping Nasr on a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003, in an operation coordinated by the CIA and Italy’s SISMI military intelligence. They are being tried in absentia.

Much of the evidence that was challenged by the government in the Constitutional Court regarded the activities of the Italian secret services.

Prosecutors say Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was taken to U.S. bases in Italy and Germany before being moved to Egypt, where he was imprisoned for four years. Nasr, who has since been released, has said he was tortured.

Italy’s government denies any role in the operation. The CIA has declined to comment on the case.

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