ROME (AFP) — A Milan court on Wednesday resumed the "CIA-gate" trial of 26 US citizens accused in the February 2003 CIA kidnapping of an Egyptian imam in the northern city, a court-appointed lawyer said.
Judge Oscar Magi had suspended the trial last June to allow the Constitutional Court to deliberate over whether Milan investigators had violated state secrecy laws by wiretapping military intelligence agents.
Since the government and Milan prosecutors agreed in January to try to settle the issue without recourse to Italy's highest court, Magi decided Wednesday the abduction trial could resume, lawyer Alessia Sorgato told AFP.
The two sides will hold talks on July 8 and could agree on documents to be removed from the body of evidence in the case dubbed "CIA-gate" by the Italian press, Sorgato said.
Osama Mustafa Hassan, an imam better known as Abu Omar, was snatched from a Milan street on February 17, 2003, in an operation coordinated by the CIA and Italian military intelligence.
Abu Omar was transferred to a high-security prison outside Cairo, where he was held for four years. After his release in February 2007, he told of torture and humiliation during his incarceration such as being forced to defecate on the floor of his cell.
The trial is the first in Europe over the CIA's so-called "extraordinary rendition" programme under which it has secretly transferred terror suspects to third countries known to practise torture.
Abu Omar's seizure was thought to be among scores of secret abductions around the world since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Wednesday's hearing was devoted to preliminary and procedural questions and the trial was adjourned to April 16, Sorgato said, adding that Magi set five further hearings in May through July and four more in September.
The judge may order that the hearings be held behind closed doors, Sorgato said.
She is representing three of the 26 American defendants -- 25 CIA agents and a US air force colonel -- who are being tried in absentia.
The trial involves another seven Italian defendants including General Nicolo Pollari, the head of military intelligence, who was forced to resign over the affair.
Among the Americans are the former CIA Milan station chief Robert Seldon Lady, the Rome CIA station chief Jeffrey Castelli and US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Romano, who was stationed at the Aviano air base in northeastern Italy at the time.
The Italian government has refused to seek the extradition of the 26 Americans requested by the Milan prosecutors.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »