A former CIA officer convicted for involvement in the kidnap of an Egyptian cleric in Italy was released on Wednesday in Lisbon after winning a last-minute reprieve from deportation, her lawyer said.
“Sabrina is free now. We will now await the Italian court’s decision on alternative sanctions to prison, which is likely to be community service to be served in Portugal … She needs to rest today,” the lawyer, Manuel Magalhaes e Silva, told Reuters by telephone.
Police took Sabrina de Sousa to a Portuguese jail where she is awaiting extradition, her Portuguese lawyer, Manuel Magalhaes e Silva, told the Associated Press. He said in an email that she was detained Monday and is expected to be sent to Italy within days.
De Sousa was among 26 Americans convicted for kidnapping suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nas, also known as Abu Omar, from a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003. She denied involvement in the abduction.
The US rendition program, under which terror suspects were kidnapped and transferred to centers where they were interrogated and tortured, was part of the anti-terrorism strategy of the Bush administration following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Former President Barack Obama ended the program years later.
De Sousa lost several appeals against extradition since her arrest at Lisbon Airport in October 2015 on a European warrant. She had argued she was never officially informed of the Italian court conviction and couldn’t use confidential US government information to defend herself.
De Sousa was expected to be jailed immediately upon her arrival in Italy in a prison in either Rome or Milan, her Italian lawyer Dario Bolognesi told the AP. Once she is incarcerated, Bolognesi said he would make a formal request for her to be granted semi-freedom and serve her sentence doing social work.
At the same time, Bolognesi said he was due to meet with Italian Justice Ministry officials to assess the status of De Sousa’s request for clemency.
However, the written ruling by the Lisbon judges, provided to the AP by the court, said that the verdict in Italy which provided the grounds for the European arrest warrant is “not final.” The warrant, the judge’s note, recognized that she has the right to a new trial or can file an appeal because she was judged in absentia and was not officially notified of the trial date or the sentence.
Furthermore, the judges made clear that if she is convicted in new proceedings, as a Portuguese citizen she is entitled to serve any prison time in Portugal.
De Sousa, who was born in India and holds both US and Portuguese passports, has said she had been living in Portugal and intended to settle there. She was on her way to visit her elderly mother in India with a round trip ticket when she was detained.