The White House today expressed “deep disappointment” over the conviction and sentencing of Indian-origin Sabrina de Sousa, a former CIA agent, by a court in Italy. “We are deeply disappointed in de Sousa’s conviction and sentence,” a White House official told PTI amidst news reports that de Sousa, has been taken into custody in Portugal to be handed over to Italy in coming days to serve a four-year prison for her alleged role in the 2003 kidnapping of a radical Muslim cleric.
The previous Obama Administration had refused to provide her with any kind of help, much to the distress of many in the intelligence community. In response to a question, the White House said it is following “her case closely, but beyond that we have no comment on the allegations” in this case.
The State Department has been following the proceedings closely and has been in touch with de Sousa, the official said. “We appreciate the efforts of the Italian Government to challenge the prosecution before the Italian Constitutional Court.
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“The US Government takes its obligation to assist US citizens overseas seriously,” the White House official said, reflecting a change in US policy towards Sabrina de Sousa under the Trump Administration. As a CIA agent stationed in Italy, De Sousa, 61, was involved in the alleged kidnaping of Egyptian-born-cleric Abu Omar outside a Mosque in Milan, Italy on February 17, 2003.
Omar, a radical Islamic cleric was imprisoned till 2007. A Italian court convicted De Sousa in absentia along with 22 other Americans in 2009. “De Sousa was just following orders and she has since publicly criticized renditions. She would be the first to see the inside of a jail for this and that would be so wrong — she is just a scapegoat,”” her lawyer, Dario Bolognesi, said.
De Sousa was arrested in Portugal in 2015 when she was visiting from US to meet her ailing mother.
Thereafter she appealed before the court, which was turned down early this week. She was taken into custody for deportation to Italy.
“We are requesting that the four-year sentence be turned into a program of restricted movement, outside jail, involving social services work,” Bolognesi said. The Acting State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner said State Department has asked its European counterparts what their next steps may be.
“But we are not in a position to detail those discussions,” he said.