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Last Updated: Monday, 25 July, 2005, 21:51 GMT 22:51 UK
Italy issues fresh CIA warrants
US military base of Aviano, northern Italy
The suspected operatives are alleged to have studied the imam's movements
An Italian court has granted six more arrest warrants for suspected CIA agents accused of helping to kidnap an Islamic cleric in 2003.

The new orders bring to 19 the number of people wanted in connection with the abduction of Osama Mustafa Hassan.

The suspects are accused of abducting Mr Hassan, also known as Abu Omar, and flying him to Egypt for interrogation.

Prosecutors believe the operation was part of a US anti-terror policy called "extraordinary rendition".

Solid evidence

The policy involves seizing suspects and taking them to third countries for questioning without court approval, leaving them vulnerable to potential abuse.

The six additional warrants had initially been turned down by the same judge who issued the 13 arrest warrants in June.

Prosecutor Armando Spataro appealed last week and a court in Milan overturned the ruling.

"The court found there was solid evidence against all 19 suspects," Mr Sparato told news agency Reuters.

Mr Hassan, 42, is believed to have been abducted on 17 February 2003, and flown out of the country from a US base in Aviano, north of Venice.

After his release last year, he called his family telling them he had been tortured with electric shocks during his detention.

Mr Spataro alleged the six suspects were involved in studying the cleric's habits and mapped out the best routes to get him to the airbase.

No arrests have been made. None of the suspects is currently believed to be in Italy.

The CIA has refused to comment on the case and the Italian government has said it had no prior knowledge of the kidnap plot.

Mr Hassan is believed to have arrived in Italy in 1997, where he was granted refugee status.

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