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US agent convicted in Italy seeks pardon

MILAN — A former CIA base chief has asked Italy’s president for a pardon of his conviction in absentia of kidnapping a terror suspect as part of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, apologizing for the strain the case has put on US-Italy relations and citing Italy’s pardon of another American convicted in the case.

‘‘I never intended to disrespect Italy’s sovereignty — quite to the contrary,’’ Robert Seldon Lady, a former US consular officer based in Milan, wrote to President Giorgio Napolitano.

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Napolitano’s office confirmed receipt of the letter, and said the request had been forwarded to the office for justice affairs.

Lady, 59, was sentenced to nine years in prison for the 2003 kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric suspected of recruiting terrorists in Milan. Lady was briefly held this summer in Panama based on an international arrest warrant. He was later allowed to return to the United States.

One of 26 CIA and US government employees convicted in absentia in the kidnapping, Lady received the toughest sentence and is the only one subject to extradition under Italian law. Italy has yet to formally request his extradition, but it has issued a notice through Interpol of its arrest warrant.

In requesting the pardon, Lady noted that he is the only one of the defendants subject to an international arrest warrant and cited Napolitano’s pardon earlier this year of a US Air Force colonel who had convicted in the case.

Air Force Colonel Joseph Romano, who was security chief at Aviano Air Force base, was the only member of the US military to be tried in the case. Napolitano had said that it was unprecedented to try an officer of a NATO country for acts committed in Italy.

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