Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Wednesday, 27 May 2009 16:33 UK

Italy ex-spy boss denies CIA role

Egyptian cleric Osama Hassan Mustafa Nasr, known as Abu Omar, who allegedly kidnapped by CIA agents off the streets of an Italian city, in 2007
The cleric Abu Omar says he was kidnapped in Milan

The former head of Italy's military intelligence agency has told a court he knew nothing about the kidnapping of an Egyptian imam in Milan six years ago.

Nicolo Pollari, who resigned over the affair, said documents showing he had no involvement in the CIA kidnapping were classified under secrecy laws.

"The documents show irrefutably that... I never gave any moral, material or any other support to the crime," he said.

Six other Italian defendants refused to answer prosecutors' questions.

They are on trial, along with 26 Americans being tried in absentia, for their role in orchestrating the kidnapping of Abu Omar.

Abu Omar - whose real name is Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr - was kidnapped in daylight on a Milan street in 2003.

State secrecy doesn't cover crime and doesn't constitute a reason for non-punishment
Armando Spataro
Italian prosecutor

Prosecutors in the case, which started two years ago, say he was flown to Germany, and then Egypt, where he was held for years until being released without charge.

Appearing for the first time in court, Mr Pollari said: "I am totally outside of the events under discussion," AFP news agency reported.

His fellow defendants also declared their innocence and refused to respond to questions from prosecutor Armando Spataro on the grounds they were protected by state secrecy laws.

Mr Spataro objected, saying: "State secrecy doesn't cover crime and doesn't constitute a reason for non-punishment."

The trial was adjourned until 10 June.

This is the first trial over the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" programme.

Under the secretive practice, suspects were transferred overseas for interrogation.

Many, including Abu Omar, say they were then tortured and held without charge.

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