Interpol advised Costa Rica Seldon Lady should be detained in Panama
Fugitive former CIA Base Chief in Italy , detained in Panama this week, was denied entry into Costa Rica Thursday, when an immigration check triggered an interpol alert.
Immigration spokeswoman, Andrea Quesada, confirmed that Seldon Lady, tried to cross from Panama to Costa Rica at Paso Canoas around 10:30am, when a Costa Rican border official called Interpol, which advised that Lady shouldn’t be detained in Costa rica, which has limited extradition powers, but could be held in Panama.
Costa Rica sent Seldon Lady back across the border, where his passport didn’t trigger any alert when checked by Panamanian authorities, Quesada said. The former CIA officer tried to cross back into Costa Rica again, where he was sent back for a second time. On his return to Panama, an Interpol alert was triggered and police detained him.
Costa Rican records show Seldon Lady had entered Costa Rica in December 2012, but stayed in the country less than 24 hours.
In Panama, after barely a day in detention, he was put on a plane to the U.S. by the Panamanian government, a close U.S. ally, instead of Italy, which wanted him to serve prison time in the 2003 abduction of a terror suspect, the Obama administration said Friday.
“It’s my understanding that he is in fact either en route or back in the United States,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters. She declined to disclose other details about his case.
Italy’s deputy foreign minister, Lap Pistelli, said in a statement that Italy “acknowledges” Panama’s decision, adding nothing more about the case. Italy and Panama have no extradition treaty, Italian diplomats said, but Panama would have been free to send Seldon Lady to Italy if it wanted.
Panamanian Public Safety Minister Jose Mulino said later in the day that Seldon Lady was sent to the United States because Italy didn’t formally request his extradition within the allotted time.
“The man was detained for 48 to be extradited but the extradition request was never made formally in that span of time and he had to be released,” Mulino said.
Lady, the former Milan base chief, was sentenced in absentia last year by an Italian appeals court to nine years in prison in the kidnapping of cleric Hassan Osama Nasr. Lady was one of 23 Americans tried for their alleged roles in the operation, all but one of them CIA officers or contractors. Three other Americans indicted in the case, including Jeffrey Castelli, the former CIA station chief in Rome, were given diplomatic immunity and acquitted in 2009. But this year, a Milan court vacated the acquittals and convicted them in absentia. Castelli, who works for a Los Angeles firm, PhaseOne Communications, was sentenced to seven years in prison, and the other two received six years.
Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was seized under a procedure known as extraordinary rendition, in which the CIA secretly detained terrorism suspects abroad and transferred them to third countries for interrogation. He was flown by the CIA to Egypt, where, he says, he was tortured, and was released in 2004.
In December, Italy’s then-justice minister, Paola Severino, authorized an international warrant for the arrest of Lady, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper. But warrants were not issued for other CIA operatives convicted in the case because their prison sentences did not meet the minimum for an extradition request.
In April, Italy’s president, Giorgio Napolitano, pardoned U.S. Air Force Col. Joseph L. Romano, who had been convicted of involvement in the kidnapping.
Italy’s secret services were complicit in the operation, Italian courts found, and a former intelligence chief, Nicolo Pollari, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in February. His former deputy got nine years, and three other officials got six years each. Under Italian law, the men remain free while the verdicts and sentences are appealed.
Nasr was suspected of recruiting militants to fight in Iraq and was under surveillance by Italian authorities when he was thrown into a CIA van and driven to Aviano, the U.S. Air Force base in Italy.
An independent Italian prosecutor, Armando Spataro, uncovered the CIA’s involvement in the kidnapping through a detailed analysis of cellphone records and other trails that former CIA officers attributed to sloppy tradecraft.