LISBON, Portugal -- A former CIA agent will be handed over to Italy in the coming days to serve a four-year prison sentence after being convicted of involvement in a U.S. program that kidnapped suspects for interrogation, a lawyer said Tuesday.
Sabrina de Sousa spent the night in a women’s prison near Lisbon after a Portuguese court ordered police to extradite her, her Portuguese lawyer, Manuel Magalhaes e Silva, told the Associated Press in an interview.
He said she was detained Monday after a two-year fight against extradition and would be put on a plane once formalities between Portuguese and Italian police were concluded.
De Sousa, 61, was among 26 Americans convicted of 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 U.S. 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.
The U.S. government expressed concern with De Sousa’s treatment.
“We are deeply disappointed in her conviction and sentence,” acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement. “This is a matter that U.S. officials have been following closely. We have asked our European counterparts what their next steps may be, but we are not in a position to detail those discussions.”
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 U.S. government information to defend herself.
Once in Italy, De Sousa is expected to be taken to a women’s prison in Milan, but her Italian lawyer Dario Bolognesi said he would immediately appeal to the Milan court to defer her imprisonment pending a decision on her years-long request for clemency. Other Americans convicted in the case have received clemency from the Italian president.
Bolognesi met Tuesday with Justice Ministry officials who are reviewing the clemency request and emerged optimistic. Regardless, he said he would also request that De Sousa be granted semi-freedom and serve any sentence doing social work.
He disputed the written ruling by the Lisbon judges that said that the verdict in Italy that provided the grounds for the European arrest warrant was “not final.” He said the Italian case went all the way to the highest court and is final.
Magalhaes e Silva, de Sousa’s Lisbon lawyer and a human rights expert who said he took her case pro bono, said the European arrest warrant guaranteed de Sousa the possibility of a new trial or an appeal. Those assurances persuaded the Lisbon court to send her to Italy, he said. But last June the Italian authorities retracted that promise in a letter to the court, he said.
“It will be interesting to see what the Italian courts do when there’s an extradition based on a European arrest warrant in which Italy guaranteed to Portugal that it would respect certain rights, then like a pariah state it turns around and says no,” he said.
De Sousa, who was born in India and holds both U.S. 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 roundtrip ticket when she was detained.