Mr Robert Seldon Lady, one of the CIA agents convicted in absentia in Italy for their involvement in the abduction/rendition of Abu Omar, has petitioned the President of Italy for pardon. The letter is available here, and is a fascinating read (not least because the guy’s (real?) last name is Lady, his middle name reminds me of one of my favourite sci-fi characters, and we can actually see a copy of a CIA agent’s passport). He supports his request with a number of arguments: that he could not properly defend himself as that would require the unauthorized disclosure of classified information; that he was acting under orders and with legal advice that his actions were lawful; and perhaps most interestingly that Italy itself is invoking before Indian courts the functional immunity of its agents who killed a couple of Indian fishermen, essentially asking Italy to apply the same theory on immunity at home that it wishes to apply abroad.
Indeed, earlier this year the Italian president had pardoned US Air Force Colonel Joseph Romano, the only non-CIA employee who was convicted in the Abu Omar affair (BBC News article). From what I can tell the President’s official decision to pardon Romano is not available online, but the presidency press release is available here in Italian. The President invoked inter alia the change in US policy by the Obama administration, the purpose for which Romano was acting in the context of the 9/11 attacks, and the changed normative situation in Italy in respect of immunity regarding crimes committed on Italian soil by NATO troops. We’ll see whether the President will treat Mr Lady in the same way, but if he does it would be hard to see why any of the other 21 CIA agents should not receive pardons as well.
For more background and our earlier coverage, see in particular this post by Francesco Messineo and his JICJ article cited therein, as well as these posts by Dapo on the immunity of the CIA agents, and the posts on the Indian affair by Douglas Guilfoyle and Hari Sankar.