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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 July 2006, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Italy spy denies CIA kidnap role
US military base in Aviano, northern Italy
The CIA is accused of taking an Italian-based cleric to Egypt
A top Italian intelligence officer held over the alleged CIA kidnapping of a terror suspect in Milan in 2003 has insisted he is innocent.

Marco Mancini, a senior ex-official at intelligence agency Sismi, is expected to be questioned by a judge on Friday.

The second officer held on Wednesday was named in reports as another senior Sismi official, Gustavo Pignero.

Egyptian Muslim cleric Osama Mustafa Hassan says he was takento Egypt and tortured after being seized by the CIA.

Italy's previous government denied any role in the seizing of Mr Hassan.

Mr Mancini insisted via his lawyer that he had done nothing wrong.

"I have confidence in the judiciary and, therefore, [I trust] my innocence in the matter will be made clear," he was quoted as saying.

Route to Egypt

The two arrested men are the first Italians to be linked to the investigation.

Mr Hassan, also known as Abu Omar, is believed to have been abducted from a Milan street on 17 February 2003, and flown out of the country from Aviano air base north of Venice.

The cleric, who had been granted refugee status in Italy, was already under investigation by Italian officers as part of a terrorism inquiry.

Milan prosecutors probing the kidnap case believe Mr Hassan was snatched by the CIA and taken to Aviano for interrogation, before being flown on to Cairo via Ramstein air base in Germany.

He is still being held in a jail in Egypt, but did make contact with his family and friends during a brief release. A friend who spoke to him said he had suffered electric shocks and other severe torture.




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