Egyptian cleric Osama Mustafa Hasan Nasr, photographed in 2007. Better known as Abu Omar, he was allegedly kidnapped by CIA agents in Italy in 2003 and taken to Egypt for interrogation.
The Washington Post reports that a former CIA operative detained in Panama at the request of Italian authorities was on a plane headed to the U.S. Friday.
Robert Seldon Lady, the former CIA station chief in Milan, Italy, was arrested Thursday in Panama in connection with an extraordinary rendition in 2003.
"It's our understanding that he's on a plane en route to the United States right now," a senior Obama administration official said, according to the Post.
The newspaper said it was not immediately clear what steps the United States had taken to secure Lady's release.
Lady, along with 23 other U.S. government employees, was sentenced in absentia in Italy to nine years in prison for the abduction of Egyptian cleric Osama Mustafa Hasan Nasr as part of an extraordinary rendition program run by the administration of President George W. Bush.
According to Reuters:
"Osama Nasr was snatched from a Milan street in 2003 and flown to Egypt for interrogation, where he says he was tortured for seven months. The imam, also known as Abu Omar, was a resident of Italy at the time of the abduction.
"Prosecutors alleged the CIA flew the imam from northern Italy via Germany to Egypt, where he says he was tortured with electric shocks, beatings, rape threats and genital abuse."
Update at 8:45 p.m. ET. "Slap In The Face Of The Italian Government":
NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from Rome that Lady's return to the U.S. is seen by commentators in Italy "as a slap in the face of the Italian government." She adds that "the Abu Omar extraordinary rendition has long been a thorn in relations between NATO allies Italy and the United States."
Update At 5:20 p.m. ET:
The State Department has confirmed the Post's reporting. A spokesperson for the department, Marie Harf, says of Lady: "We understand he is en route or back in the U.S."