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Rediff.com  » News » Judge slams US govt, but dismisses Mumbai native De Sousa's case

Judge slams US govt, but dismisses Mumbai native De Sousa's case

January 06, 2012 14:34 IST

Sabrina De Sousa, a United States consular officer in Milan, was abandoned by her own government and left to fend for herself in an alleged CIA kidnapping case in Italy. Rediff.com's George Joseph narrates her story.

Though the United States District Court for the District of Columbia last week dismissed the civil case filed by Sabrina De Sousa, who was sentenced in Italy in the Central Intelligence Agency's alleged kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Milan in 2003, the judge slammed the US government for not sufficiently protecting its employees.

'The facts underlying this case are troubling in many ways,' Judge Beryl A Howell wrote in her decision.

'The plaintiff served the government and the people of the United States in the Foreign Service for a decade. During the course of her service to this country, she was accused and convicted in absentia of committing a crime in a foreign nation, not for any personal gain, but at the alleged behest of the United States government.'

'According to her allegations,' the judge noted, 'she requested the government's assistance to counter the charges against her in Italy, but received none and was insteadÂ… (was effectively) abandoned and left to fend for herself.'

The court's decision to dismiss the case, De Sousa's attorney Mark S Zaid said, "unfortunately sanctions the betrayal by two administrations of a dedicated federal servant for executive political purposes."

'The message is clear that when it comes to weaponising national security to extinguish charges of intentional governmental misconduct, the Obama administration is as bad, if not worse, than its predecessor,' Zaid added.

De Sousa was one of the 23 Americans convicted by an Italian court in the alleged CIA kidnapping of Abu Omar.

The former CIA station chief in Milan, Robert Seldon Lady, was sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison.

De Sousa and 22 others received five-year sentences.

The case against them was that they kidnapped Omar and took him to secret locations in Egypt for interrogation using harsh methods including torture called 'extraordinary rendition'.

De Sousa was a US consular officer in Milan at the time. She claimed with evidence that she was 130 miles away on the day of the kidnapping.

As a consular officer, she was entitled to diplomatic immunity. The US government did not act to declare diplomatic immunity to her and the other accused.

De Sousa moved back to the US in 2004 and continued to work for the State Department.

In 2006, an Italian prosecutor registered a case against her and others and issued a Europol warrant. She could be arrested during international travel and handed over to Italy.

Due to the fear of arrest, she could not travel to her native Mumbai, where her family lives, for years. Authorities discouraged her travel fearing that any arrest would jeopardise other officials too. She last travelled to India in 2009, Zaid said.

She did not admit to working for the CIA.

After failing to get much help from the State Department in the case in Italy, De Sousa resigned early 2009 from her job. She approached higher officials and members of the Congress for help to invoke diplomatic immunity, in vain.

She became a naturalised US citizen in 1985, and served as a foreign service officer from 1998 to 2009.

The Italian press called her 'Sabrina the Tiger, with stiletto heels and fists of steel,' the 'new Mata Hari' and other exotic names.

Sabrina De Sousa, now 55, lives in the US, jobless and abandoned by the US government.

George Joseph in New York