A former CIA operative who was due to be imprisoned for her alleged part in a 2003 abduction of an Egyptian cleric has been partially pardoned by the Italian government.

Sabrina de Sousa was one of 23 US officials convicted in absentia by Italy in 2009 for taking part in former President George W Bush's extraordinary rendition programme.

The convictions followed the kidnapping of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, who was seized in Milan before being taken to Germany and on to Egypt, where he was severely tortured.

President Sergio Mattarella on Tuesday (28 February) announced that de Sousa's sentence would be reduced from four years to three, meaning that she could opt for alternative means of punishment rather than imprisonment.

It comes after months of legal wrangling as to whether de Sousa should be exported from Portugal, where she holds dual citizenship and has been held under house arrest since 2015.

Mattarella's statement came on the eve of her extradition to Italy, where she was to serve her sentence. It did not clarify, however, if de Sousa was still to travel to Italy.

She has maintained her innocence throughout and, extraordinarily, has been supported by Abu Omar, who claims she is being used as a scapegoat by the US government to protect high-ranking officials .

Abu Omar was released after four years in Egyptian captivity without charge. However, he was later convicted in absentia of "criminal association for the purposes of international terrorism" by a court in Milan in 2013.

In 2016, the European Court of Human Rights awarded him €115,000 (£98,247; $121,600) in damages from Italy in its role for his captivity.

The case against the 23 US officials was brought to Italy's court by a private investigator and was not officially endorsed by the Italian government, who were among the accused.

Two Italian security officials were tried and convicted alongside the US agents for the illegal rendition of Abu Omar.