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Spy says he was following orders

A FORMER United States spy at the center of a kidnapping trial in Italy appeared to acknowledge a role in the abduction of a Muslim cleric but said he was only following orders, according to a rare interview published yesterday.

Robert Seldon Lady is one of 26 Americans, almost all believed to have been working for the CIA, who are accused along with Italian spies of grabbing a terrorism suspect off the streets of Milan in 2003 and flying him to Egypt.

There, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr says he was tortured and held for years without charge.

"I'm not guilty. I'm only responsible for carrying out orders that I received from my superiors," Lady, the CIA's Milan station chief at the time, was quoted as telling Il Giornale newspaper when asked whether he participated in the abduction.

He said he committed no crime because it was a "state matter ... I console myself by reminding myself that I was a soldier, that I was in a war against terrorism, that I couldn't discuss orders given to me."

Lady, now retired, spoke from an undisclosed location over the Internet to the paper, which is owned by the brother of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

He said an Italian police officer, who already confessed to police and was given a suspended sentence, was the only Italian at the scene of the Milan abduction.

"I wasn't at the scene and I didn't organize the thing, the rendition, the arrest, the kidnapping, however we want to call it," said Lady, who is being tried in absentia.

Berlusconi, who was also in power at the time, has denied any Italian state knowledge of any secret CIA transfer.

But he also waged a campaign to get classified testimony and documents related to Italy's collaboration with the CIA stripped from the trial.


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