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MILAN (Reuters) - An Italian judge could decide on Wednesday to make Silvio Berlusconi the first head of a government to testify in criminal proceedings over secret CIA transfers of terrorism suspects.
Judge Oscar Magi is expected to announce his decision on whether to call Berlusconi and other politicians when he resumes a trial at 4 a.m. EDT against 26 Americans and seven Italians accused of carrying out a transfer or "rendition" in 2003.
Prosecutors say a CIA-led team kidnapped a Muslim cleric off the streets of Milan and secretly flew him to Egypt.
Public prosecutors did not oppose Pollari's request for Berlusconi and Prodi to testify, a fact that lawyers in the case say could give the judge added reason to call upon them.
Among those indicted on kidnapping charges are Jeff Castelli, the former CIA chief in Rome, and former CIA Milan station chief Robert Lady.
The Americans -- almost all of them believed to be CIA agents -- are being tried in absentia and a U.S. official has made clear Washington will not turn them over to Italian courts.
Berlusconi's previous administration refused to pass on prosecutors' extradition requests to Washington.
Although freemasonry was banned in 1981 and Licio Gelli is confined to house arrest, many fear that today P2 is as strong as ever. Many of the P2 members have kept their positions of power, and one notable member, businessman Silvio Berlusconi, has been prime minister twice in the past 12 years. Silvio Berlusconi’s amazing career bears all the marks of P2. From his humble beginnings as a singer on cruise boats, Berlusconi entered P2 and received all means of economic and political support from the organization. It is not by chance that Berlusconi built an economic empire in a handful of years without any proof of legal transactions. The right friends and a benevolent disposition for money laundering go a long way. Today Berlusconi is Italy's richest man and despite almost constant investigations into his shady business practices and his relationships with Mafia figures he managed to hold power longer than any other Prime Minister since World War II.
Berlusconi, one of the United States' close allies in its battle against terrorism, has expressed support for Pollari and has maintained his government was not informed about the operation and did not take part in it.
The trial is the first involving the CIA's extraordinary rendition program.
At the time of his disappearance, Nasr was also under investigation in Italy for suspicion of involvement in international terrorism.
Italian prosecutors say the cleric was transferred to U.S. bases in Italy and Germany before being moved to Egypt, where he was imprisoned for four years. Nasr, who was released last year, says he was tortured.
All but one American suspect in the case have been identified by prosecutors as CIA agents. They are being tried in absentia, and their Italian lawyers are all court-appointed, having had no direct contact with their clients.