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Panama releases ex-CIA officer held over cleric's 'extraordinary rendition'

Ex-CIA officer Robert Seldon Lady, convicted in Italy of kidnapping a terror suspect, was detained and then released by Panama.

Abu omar cleric abducted 2013 07 18Enlarge
Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar, speaks to a journalist at an Amnesty International press conference in Cairo on April 11, 2007. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Panama on Friday released the ex-CIA officer it had detained earlier this week upon request from Italy.

Robert Seldon Lady, formerly the CIA chief in Milan, was convicted by an Italian court of kidnapping a terror suspect in 2003. US officials quoted by The Washington Post said that Seldon Lady was released Friday morning and onboard a flight to the United States.

Lady was sentenced to nine years in jail by an Italian court for his involvement in the abduction of an Egyptian cleric snatched off the street in the northern Italian city, according to BBC News.

The cleric, Abu Omar, was held at US military bases in Italy and German before being flown to Egypt, where he was allegedly tortured and eventually released.

The case, described as one of the most blatant examples of extraordinary rendition, raised tensions between Rome and Washington — usually stalwart allies.

More from GlobalPost: A war on terror where the rules don't apply

Lady, 59, was one of 23 Americans, mostly CIA officers or contractors, tried and convicted in abstentia over the crime. The sentence was handed down last year.

He was detained at the Panama-Costa Rica border Wednesday after Italy requested his arrest.

According to Italian media reports, an international warrant was sought by the justice minister in Italy's previous government in December 2012.

Lady's reported release Friday averted the question of whether he would be extradited to Italy. The Post quoted a senior Obama administration official saying, "It’s our understanding that he’s on a plane en route to the United States right now."

A few months before his conviction, Lady told the Italian newspaper Il Giornale: "Of course it was an illegal operation. But that's our job. We're at war against terrorism."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/130718/ex-cia-officer-held-panama-cleric-abduction