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(Reuters) - Italy's president on Friday pardoned a U.S. Air Force officer convicted of kidnapping an Egyptian Muslim cleric who was taken away for interrogation on a CIA "rendition" flight.
The clemency was granted because the United States and Italy are close allies that "share the common goals of promoting democracy and security" around the world, a statement from the president said.
After the bombing, the New Zealand Police started one of the country's largest police investigations. Most of the agents escaped New Zealand, but two, Captain Dominique Prieur and Commander Alain Mafart – posing as married couple Sophie and Alain Turenge and having Swiss passports – were identified as possible suspects with the help of a Neighborhood Watch group, and were arrested. Both were questioned and investigated, and their true identities were discovered, along with the French government's responsibility. Both agents pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment on 22 November 1985. France threatened an economic embargo of New Zealand's exports to the European Economic Community if the pair were not released. Such an action would have crippled the New Zealand economy, which was dependent on agricultural exports to Britain. Hao atoll In June 1986, in a political deal with Prime Minister of New Zealand David Lange, presided over by United Nations Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, France agreed to pay NZ$13 million (USD$6.5 million) to New Zealand and apologise, in return for which Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur would be detained at the French military base on Hao Atoll for three years. However, the two agents had both returned to France by May 1988, after less than two years on the atoll. Mafart returned to Paris on 14 December 1987 for medical treatment, and was apparently freed after the treatment. He continued in the French Army and was promoted to colonel in 1993. Prieur returned to France on 6 May 1988, because she was pregnant, her husband having been allowed to join her on the atoll. She, too, was freed and later promoted. The removal of the agents from Hao without subsequent return was ruled to be in violation of the 1986 agreement