Sabrina De Sousa, the Mumbai-born former CIA officer facing extradition from Portugal to Italy in connection with the “extraordinary rendition” of an Egyptian cleric in 2003, was on Tuesday night granted a partial pardon hours before she was due to be flown to Rome.
De Sousa, 61, has been facing court proceedings in Portugal, where she was arrested in 2009 on the basis of a European Arrest Warrant. She is a dual US-Portugal citizen and hails from Goa, where her mother, in her 90s, lives.
The US “extraordinary rendition” programme was run during the George Bush presidency in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks. Suspects were nabbed and taken to CIA centres, where they were allegedly tortured for information related to the “war on terror”.
De Sousa was posted in Italy as a CIA officer in 2003, when cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr was picked up from the streets of Milan and taken to Egypt. He later alleged he was tortured. She insisted she was not involved in his case, but faced charges and left the CIA in 2009.
The case has since involved several countries – the US, Portugal and Italy – with De Sousa alleging the Barack Obama administration did not support her. An Italian court convicted her and 22 other Americans in 2009. She was due to face four years jail in Italy.
The office of Sergio Mattarella, the Italian president, released a statement late on Tuesday saying De Sousa had been granted a partial pardon, which would reduce her four-year sentence by one year.
It added De Sousa will be able to serve her sentence with “alternative measures” to detention, meaning she could avoid spending any time in jail. It was unclear if the “alternative measures” included not needing to spend the time in Italy.
Mattarella’s office said the act of mercy reflected the attitude that had been shown by De Sousa, who actively sought clemency but maintained she was innocent of any crime and that she deserved to be protected under diplomatic immunity.