The Italian prosecutor dealing with the case of the 22 CIA agents accused of kidnapping Abu Omar in an “extraordinary rendition” operation may seek to put them on trial in absentia.

Speaking to the Chicago Tribune at an anti-terrorism conference in New York last week, Armando Spataro said he had asked the Italian justice minister, Roberto Castelli, to request the extradition of the 22 agents for whom Italy has issued arrest warrents, but also said that he would proceed with the trial even if the United States refuses to hand them over:

To convene a kidnapping trial Spataro would need only the permission of Milan Judge Chiara Nobili, who has weighed the evidence against the 22 CIA operatives in approving the warrants for their arrest.

According to Spataro, a defendant convicted in absentia would be subject to arrest and extradition in any of the 184 countries that belong to Interpol, the international police organization.

The accused organizer of the kidnapping, Robert Seldon Lady, identified in one of the arrest warrants as the “CIA superintendent” in Milan at the time the abduction was carried out, is believed to be living in Florida.

Lady, who retired from the CIA in 2003, has retained Milan attorney Daria Pesce to represent him. In a telephone interview Tuesday, Pesce said that if her client were to be convicted, “then he cannot come in Europe or any Interpol country except the United States, which would not extradite a U.S. citizen.”

Judge Nobili noted that the abduction was conducted by “foreign citizens” without the approval of any “Italian authority” and that at the time he disappeared Abu Omar was under close investigation by anti-terrorist police in Milan.

She called the abduction “a most serious assault against the authority of the Italian State and of international treaties on such matters.”

It may happen this way because the justice minster is not exactly sympathetic to the case:

Castelli, the Italian justice minister, was quoted Tuesday by the Italian news service AGI as calling Spataro a “left-wing militant” and said he is examining the extradition request “to understand if the charge against the Americans is groundless or if it was linked to an anti-American feeling which is common to our Left.”

Spataro replied that Castelli “not only is ignorant of my personal love for American country and culture, but he forgets that another deputy chief prosecutor and the general prosecutor also signed” the extradition request, which was approved by Judge Nobili.

“Are (we) all anti-American people?” asked Spataro, who began his career in the 1970s by prosecuting the left-wing terrorist group the Red Brigades after his predecessor was assassinated by another leftist organization.