August 22, 2009 in Nation/World

FBI snatches man overseas

Rendition used in Afghanistan fraud case
Bob Drogin Los Angeles Times

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Lebanese citizen being held in a detention center here was hooded, stripped naked for photographs and bundled onto an executive jet by FBI agents in Afghanistan in April, making him the first known target of a rendition during the Obama administration.

Unlike terrorism suspects who secretly were snatched by the CIA and harshly interrogated and imprisoned overseas during the Bush administration, Raymond Azar was flown to the United States for a case involving inflated invoices.

Azar, 45, pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit bribery, the only charge against him. He faces a maximum of five years in prison, but a sentence of 2 1/2 years or less is likely under federal guidelines.

Defense lawyers and prosecutors declined to comment Friday.

U.S. Justice Department lawyers have denied any misconduct.

“The FBI followed standard operating procedures when transporting prisoners to the United States,” Gina Talamona, a Justice spokeswoman, said Friday.

Prosecutors said that Azar was “treated professionally,” kept in a heated room, offered food and water repeatedly and “provided with comfortable chairs to sit in.” They said he was photographed naked and subjected to a cavity search to ensure he did not carry hidden weapons and was fit for travel.

The case is different from the so-called “extraordinary renditions” carried out after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in which CIA teams snatched suspected al-Qaida members and other alleged terrorists overseas and flew them, shackled and hooded, to prisons outside the United States without any arrest warrants or other judicial proceedings.

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