Sabrina De Sousa (born c. 1956 in Bombay, India) is a Portuguese-American convicted (in absentia) of kidnapping.
In 2009 she was convicted of kidnapping in Italy for her role in the 2003 abduction of the Muslim imam Abu Omar, who was kidnapped in Milan and subsequently tortured. Sousa was sentenced to four years in prison for her role in the kidnapping. A European Arrest Warrant valid throughout Europe was subsequently issued for her arrest, and she was arrested in Portugal under that arrest warrant in 2015. She was due to be extradited back to Italy to serve her sentence, having exhausted her appeal rights against her extradition in Portugal, when the President of Italy issued her a pardon ending extradition proceedings against her.
Sousa claims to be a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) field officer who used diplomatic cover. In 2009 she sued the U.S. State Department, claiming that the State Department should grant her diplomatic immunity for her role in the kidnapping, irrespective of the fact that diplomatic immunity is granted by the host country. The State Department denied that she had diplomatic immunity, and she lost her lawsuit against the State Department. In a July 27, 2013 interview with the McClatchy News Service, she said that she worked undercover for the CIA when the kidnapping took place. She maintains she played no role in the kidnapping, was unaware of the plans, and was on a ski trip when it took place. Sousa was born in Goa, India and grew up in Bombay (now Mumbai). She is a citizen of India, Portugal and the United States, having obtained her U.S. citizenship in 1985.
The underlying case is called the "Imam Rapito affair", which involves "kidnapping charges in Italy for the seizure of a suspected terrorist." Abu Omar, a Muslim cleric, was abducted on February 17, 2003, in Milan by the CIA, and transported to the Aviano Air Base, from which he was transferred to Egypt, where he was interrogated (and allegedly tortured). (Abu Omar is also known as Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr and Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr.) The Italian government originally denied having played any role in the abduction, but Italian prosecutors Armando Spataro and Ferdinand Enrico Pomarici indicted two dozen American and Italian government employees and agents. Italian authorities issued an arrest warrant in 2006 for De Sousa. They named her publicly in July 2008. She is not alleged to have kidnapped Omar herself, but is said to have "helped make false documents to mislead investigators." She claims an alibi that she was "vacationing at a ski resort nearly 130 miles away in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy."
De Sousa is alleged by the Italian judicial system to be an intelligence officer. They claim that she is part of a "CIA network", serving under diplomatic cover. She claims to be a diplomat. She was registered with the United States Embassy in Rome as "second secretary" but posted in Milan. She was a State Department employee, until she resigned in February 2009. She was convicted of kidnapping for her role in the Imam rapito affair on November 4, 2009 by an Italian court, after a trial in absentia and a plea of not guilty. She was briefly detained at the Lisbon airport in Portugal on October 5, 2015. Her passport was confiscated, and she is awaiting a decision on whether she will be turned over to Italy to serve her six-year sentence. In January 2016, she was ordered extradited to Italy, although that order will be appealed. She has disclaimed any involvement in the affair and has been working to clear her name, including writing a memoir about her activities. Her appeal was denied on April 11, 2016.
On April 11, 2016, the Portuguese Supreme Court upheld De Sousa's extradition. According to the New York Times, she will be filing a further appeal to Portugal's Constitutional Court, due to a difference between how Portugal and Italy handle convictions in absentia. According to the New York Times she will argue that if she were extradited she could not count on Italy granting her a re-trial, whereas a right to a re-trial is routinely allowed in Portugal. On 8 June 2016, the Portuguese Constitutional Court upheld the Supreme Court's decision. Sabrina de Sousa is now due to be extradited to Italy. De Sousa sued for a declaration that she is a diplomat with immunity from prosecution: In the lawsuit filed Wednesday (May 2009) in federal court in Washington, Sabrina De Sousa wants diplomatic immunity and government-funded legal counsel in Italy. She claims she was a foreign service officer working in Milan and was not involved in the 2003 seizure of Muslim cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar. But Italian prosecutors say De Sousa, a 53-year-old India native, was a CIA officer working under diplomatic cover and was one of four main U.S. officials responsible for coordinating Omar's capture from a Milan street in broad daylight on February 17, 2003. — AP story
De Souza tried to appeal her extradition on the grounds that the CIA had documents that would establish she did not play the roles in the kidnapping for she was convicted, but that the documents were unavailable for her to use to defend herself, because they were classified as secrets. De Souza eventually lost all her appeals against extradition. In an email to the Associated Press De Souza's lawyers wrote that Portuguese authorities took her into custody on February 20, 2017, and that she would be transferred to Italian custody within a few days. Even though De Sousa exhausted all her appeals in Portugal's Justice system, she will be entitled to appeal her conviction, or request a new trial, once she is extradited to Italy, because she was convicted in absentia, and wasn't formally advised of her trial. On February 28, 2017, the New York Times reported that, Sergio Mattarella, the President of Italy, had commuted De Sousa's sentence, to just three years. They reported that Italian law allowed convicts sentenced to three years or less to serve an alternate sentence, like house arrest, instead of prison time. De Sousa's initial sentence had been for seven years, and had previously been reduced to four years. After Mattarella's partial commutation of De Sousa's sentence Italian prosecutors revoked their extradition order. She will now have a further opportunity for further appeals. De Sousa had expressed confidence that, when inaugurated Donald Trump would save her from imprisonment. When Mattarella did partially pardon her, there was widespread speculation that Italy was succumbing to of diplomatic pressure from the newly inaugurated President.