Former CIA agent to be ‘exchanged’ for Russian involved in Portugal’s NATO spy scandal

Portugal’s homegrown spy scandal has been spiced up further this week by news that a former CIA agent detained in Lisbon last year is now to be extradited to Italy to serve a six-year sentence for a crime she claims she did not commit so that Portugal can get its hands on the alleged Russian ‘handler’ of Portuguese SIS agent Frederico Carvalhão Gil.

In the stuff of Cold War political thrillers, there appears to be so much in this news that is not being explained.

For example, Carvalhão Gil’s lawyer, José Preto, says the whole case against his client – currently in solitary confinement in Monsanto jail – is “absolute fantasy”.

Talking to the Resident, Preto has said that Gil is a “good man” being used as a scapegoat.

Also portrayed as a scapegoat is former CIA interpreter Sabrina de Sousa, the US-Portuguese citizen who has been ‘living under a shadow’ since being found guilty with 22 others in absentia by an Italian court over the ‘extraordinary rendition’ of a radical Egyptian cleric in 2003 (click here).

Talking to the Guardian earlier this year, the cleric stressed de Sousa’s innocence of the crimes levelled against her, saying: “Sabrina and the others who were convicted are scapegoats. The US administration sacrificed them. All of those higher up in the hierarchy are enjoying their immunity. These people higher up, without doubt they should be convicted in this case. They should face trial.”

But with this extremely unlikely, we are now faced with the explanation that de Sousa’s imminent extradition – fought and lost in three court hearings – is now paving the way to the arrival on Portuguese soil of “the Russian spy” alleged to have been Carvalhão Gil’s intelligence handler (click here).

Says Diário de Notícias this morning: “Both these cases have the European Arrest Warrant (system) in common – a very strong juridical instrument in the safeguarding of European countries sovereignty.”

DN makes no mention of the widespread criticism of the European Arrest Warrant system, which does not allow subjects any right of appeal.

As an opinion article in the Guardian has commented, “it is not just Eurosceptics who think the EAW system is rotten …”

But according to the law as it stands, crimes deemed to have been committed against a State should be judged by that State. Therefore, Sabrina de Sousa goes back to Italy, which sent her to jail in her absence over a decade ago, and the so-far unnamed Russian handler comes here.

That is the plan, anyway. DN explains the Russian is “contesting his extradition”, though Kremlin diplomacy “is not working with the Italian judiciary”.

What this case is truly about, we may never know.

Operation Top Secret, quoted by the Portuguese press, says Gil and his handler have been colluding over NATO documents for years (click here).

Gil’s lawyer José Preto says: “This is a dangerous case in which a fine man is being victimised for the mere necessity of propaganda”.

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