Archives for posts with tag: Antonino Allegra

Inspector Luigi Calabresi (17 May 1972)

A shot from a pistol, then another, echoed through the Via Luigi Cherubini, near the corner of the Via Mario Pagano in Milan, then a man walked briskly from the scene, got into a car, and disappeared leaving Inspector Luigi Calabresi dead on the pavement. It was 17 May 1972.

Milan, Via Luigi Cherubini, 17 May 1972: Calabresi murder secene

So ended the life of the policeman that much of the left held responsible for Giuseppe Pinelli’s death. While many of the newspapers of the extra-parliamentary left, especially the weekly Lotta Continua, openly accused the inspector, the most often repeated slogans during protest marches were: “Calabresi — assassin” and “Pinelli, I will be avenged.”  The walls of many cities were covered with posters depicting Calabresi with blood on his hands.

The writing on the wall

As far as a substantial sector of public opinion was concerned, the inspector, born in Rome in 1937, was no longer a glittering and decorated public servant, always dapper with his designer jumpers and claiming to be a “liberal” who voted social democrat. He had become a protagonist in the strategy of tension.

Lotta Continua’s press campaign became even more outspoken when reporters monitoring developments at the Palace of Justice learned that the investigation into Pinelli’s death was about to be wound up, with the police found blameless.

Lotta Continua's anti-Calabresi campaign

In fact, acting prosecutor Giovanni Caizzi closed the file on 21 May 1970. The intention of the editors of Lotta Continua was to provoke Calabresi — who had been rechristened as “Inspector Window” — to get him to sue the paper in order to reopen the “Pinelli case” before the courts. On 15 April, Calabresi brought charges against Pio Baldelli, Lotta Continua’s editor-in-chief, for “ongoing and aggravated defamation through attribution of a specific act”, to wit, responsibility for Pinelli’s death.

But Milan’s prosecutor-general, Enrico De Peppo, delayed for over a month before assigning the case to a magistrate for investigation, and pressed Caizzi to finish his examination in the meantime. The trial was to begin once Caizzi had declared Pinelli’s death an accident.

The courtroom confrontation between Calabresi and Baldelli opened on 9 October 1970.  It was a trial heavy with expectations and was prefaced in September by an appeal published in the weekly L’Espresso and signed by Italian intellectuals, university lecturers and politicians (including Elvio Fachinelli, Lucio Gambi, Giulio Maccacaro, Cesare Musatti, Enzo Paci, Carlo Salinari and Mario Spinelli). Their public letter opened with a challenge: “Railway man Pino Pinelli died on the night of 15-16 December 1969 as a result of a fall from a window at Milan police headquarters. How, we do not know. All we know is that he was innocent.”

Marcello Guida

After criticising the closure of the file on his death and the application to have the suit brought by Pinelli’s loved ones against police chief Marcello Guida (who had libelled the anarchist) set aside, the signatories concluded: “We owe the magistrate our respect, but we cannot help but hold him jointly responsible for the death of Giuseppe Pinelli, a second time, by ascribing to him crimes not of his doing — and bearing the grave responsibility of murdering our faith in a justice that is no longer justice when it fails to reflect the conscience of its citizenry.”

But there was also a film that was enjoying great success — Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion — directed by Elio Petri and featuring Gian Maria Volonté, with a soundtrack by Ennio Morricone. Audiences immediately identified the inspector played by Volonté as Inspector Calabresi.

In court, Michele Lener defended Calabresi, and Marcello Gentili and Bianca Guidetti Serra acted for Baldelli. The judge was Carlo Biotti and the prosecuting attorney was Emilio Guicciardi. The court was surrounded by an impressive deployment of police and carabinieri.

The opening session was packed to overflowing, with people shouting out “murderer” when Calabresi entered to give evidence.

Calabresi giving his evidence in court

The inspector spoke of Pinelli as a decent fellow with whom he had swapped views. He had even made the anarchist the gift of a book (Enrico Emanueli’s Un milione di uomini) and Pinelli had reciprocated with a gift of Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology. He had handled Pinelli’s interrogation because he was under orders and inquiries were being made in every direction. In short, Pinelli’s questioning on 15 December had been relaxed, and only once did he utter the phrase: “Valpreda has talked.” But that was as far as it went. And when Pinelli jumped, Calabresi was in the office of his senior officer, Antonino Allegra.

Calabresi failed to mention the threats he had been making for months against Pinelli when he realised he could not count on him to collaborate.

During a picket mounted in San Vittore in September to demand the release of the anarchists arrested for the bombings on 25 April, Calabresi had approached Pinelli and — after an exchange of words — told him angrily: ‘I’m going to make you pay’ ” recalled Cesare Vurchio from the Ponte della Ghisolfa circle, an eye-witness to that exchange.

The other police officers trooped through the court during the succeeding sittings. The script never varied, down to use of the same phrases and terminology: ‘calm and relaxed”; “launched himself into the void”; “I received the news”. They gave the clear impression that they were all going through a lesson committed to memory.

Popular newspaper cartoon depicting requirement of visitors to Calabresi’s office to wear a parachute

But there were noticeable departures from what they had told Judge Caizzi previously. The times had altered. The interrogation had not ended at midnight but at 11.30 p.m. The window had not been wide open, but closed on one side. Savino Lo Grano, newly promoted carabinieri captain, originally said he had watched Pinelli throughout and saw him throw himself from the window. Now, in court, he claimed he had seen no such thing: he had been looking at the open window while two police officers, trapped behind the shutters, had been unable to stop the anarchist.

The greatest absurdity, however, came in the statement of brigadiere Vito Panessa. He contradicted himself and allowed his mouth run away with him, first admitting things, then denying them. Finally he issued a denial that had the ring of an unwitting confession: “I have said that I am not in a position to provide details but, broadly speaking, bear in mind that there was no agreed story and it was, therefore, a matter for investigation … Each of us went before Judge Caizzi and gave out the story that.”

Judge Biotti suddenly interjected: “Signor Panessa, you are rambling!” before asking Panessa: “What is this business about an agreed story?”  Panessa answered: “It is not the case that there was an exchange of views between those of us who had been present: the following day we each went before the judge and told him what we could remember.”

The case dragged on along similar lines for five more months, but in the end Baldelli’s defence lawyers scored their first victory. Pinelli’s body was to be exhumed and undergo fresh forensic examination.

What were Gentili and Guidetti getting at? They wanted to check if Pinelli’s body still carried any sign of a karate chop delivered while under interrogation, the sort of blow that might have left Pinelli irretrievably disoriented and leading to the fall from the window.  And that was precisely what Lener did not want to hear.

Change of scene.

Lener moved that Judge Biotti be removed from the case and, on 7 June 1971, the Appeal Court dismissed him. On what grounds? The judge had spoken with Calabresi’s defence counsel on 21 November 1970 when he allegedly said something about pressure from upstairs to ensure the case ended with Baldelli’s acquittal, and he had supposedly told him that “both he and the other two judges were convinced that the famous karate chop had broken Pinelli’s spinal column.”

The removal of Biotti was the ace card played by Calabresi’s defence at a point when it was perhaps still possible to establish — in spite of a year and a half’s having passed — how Pinelli died. The trial quickly became bogged down.

A further investigation was launched into Licia Pinelli’s — Guiseppe’s widow — complaint to examining magistrate Gerardo D’Ambrosio which led to manslaughter charges being brought on 4 October 1971 against the police team which had interrogated Pinelli: Calabresi, Lo Grano, Panessa, Giuseppe Caracuta, Carlo Mainardi and Pietro Mucilli. D’Ambrosio had the anarchist’s body exhumed on 21 October. But, as lots of scientists and physicians had argued, given the advanced state of decomposition, it was by then hard to discover anything.

Licia Pinelli during a legal hearing

Things moved on to the verdict passed on 27 October 1975. Calabresi — no longer a deputy inspector but now a full inspector — was by then three years dead. The verdict focused on “active misfortune” as the cause of Pinelli’s death. D’Ambrosio cleared all the accused on the grounds that “the total lack of evidence that something happened is, under our procedural system, as well as under the system of other more progressive states, tantamount to evidence that a thing has not happened.”

But the “Calabresi case” refused to go away. On 17 May 1973 a monument to the inspector was unveiled in the courtyard of Milan police headquarters to mark the first anniversary of his death. The ceremony was attended by Interior minister Mariano Rumor.

Gianfranco Bertoli, having recently returned to Italy from Israel, threw a bomb at the entrance to the headquarters. His intention — as he declared after his arrest — was to get the authorities paying tribute to Calabresi, but a police officer had kicked the device away and it had ended up among the crowd. Carnage ensued: four lives were lost and nearly 40 people were injured.

Gianfranco Bertoli

Bertoli claimed he was an individualist anarchist. But nearly all the press described him as a fascist and cited a series of previous actions (attacks on leftwing party premises and others) that were to fall through during the trial.

Born in Venice in 1933, Bertoli — a member of the PCI’s Youth Federation up until 1952 — had a record as a petty criminal and had been in and out of jail for years. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on 9 March 1976.

From 1993 Bertoli enjoyed an open prison regime. But his case still held a few surprises in store. It would seem (the conditional tense is de rigueur in this tale) that fresh information has since surfaced regarding those who had somehow incited him to carry out his deed — protagonists of the strategy of tension, perhaps.

So who killed Calabresi? There was silence on that front up until 2 July 1988 when Leonardo Marino, a former FIAT worker and ex-member of Lotta Continua, gave himself up to the carabinieri in La Spezia (he sold crepes from a kiosk in nearby Bocca di Magra). He wanted to come clean about his and his colleagues’ part in the Calabresi murder.

But 17 days were to elapse before he signed a statement. Why? That remains a mystery.  He was taken to Milan, and it was a further seven days before he made a full confession. Another mystery. On 28 July, in addition to Marino, Adriano Sofri, Ovidio Bompressi and Giorgio Pietrostefani were arrested. Sofri had been the unchallenged national leader of Lotta Continua and Pietrostefani was the movement’s leader in Milan.

Calabresi's assassins: (top l/r) Leonardo Marino, Adriano Sofri, Ovidio Bompressi and Giorgio Pietrostefani

A lengthy procession through the courts began. The charges were based exclusively on Marino’s confession that he had driven the getaway car, Bompressi actually committed the murder.  Sofri and Pietrostefani had given the go-ahead. The initial verdict was handed down in July 1991. They were all found guilty as charged. The conspirators and perpetrator received 22 year sentences, Marino 11 years. On 23 October 1992, the Court of Cassation dismissed the verdict on the basis of insufficient motive. So, on 21 December 1993 the Appeal Court of Assizes cleared them all. The verdict was thrown out again on 27 October 1994, and a third Appeal Court confirmed the 22-year sentences passed on Sofri, Bompressi and Pietrostefani, while Marino, thanks to extenuating considerations, saw his case dismissed. On 22 January the Court of Cassation had the final word and confirmed the convictions.

Advertisements

25 April 1969: Police experts examine the scene of the 25 April bombing (Milan Central Station)

DURING THE Festival of Liberation of 25 April 1969, there was an explosion on the FIAT stand at the Fiera campionaria in Milan. It was nearly 7.00 pm and 20 people were injured, though none of them seriously. Shortly before 9.00 pm. a further explosion occurred in the Central Station at the bureau de change of the Banca Nazionale delle Communicazioni — again, fortunately, with few people injured. No lives were lost, but that was only by luck. Both bombs had been activated by a timing device.

August 1969: scene of train bombing

Figures released the Interior Ministry stated that these terrorist attacks had been preceded by 32 other attacks. By the end of the year the number of explosions and arson attacks stood at 53. But other sources counted as many as 140. Why the disparity? Because only those attacks for which someone had been denounced or arrested made it into the ministry’s figures. Attacks by persons unknown were not included in the official statistics.

Inspector Dr. Luigi Calabresi

In the case of the 25 April bomb attacks (with their echoes of the partisan war and ‘leftwing’ targeting of those standard-bearers of Italian capitalism, FIAT, and Italian financial institutions), there was a trio on the job that was to become famous by the end of the year — Inspector Luigi Calabresi, his superior Antonino Allegra and Judge Antonio Amati.

Antonino Allegra

All three took off on the anarchist trail. They rounded up fifteen anarchists, of whom they detained four — Paolo Braschi, Paolo Faccioli, Giovanni Corradini and his wife Eliane Vincileone.

Whereas the first two were very young and virtually unknown in leftwing circles in Milan, Corradini and Vincileone enjoyed a certain renown. He was an architect and  both had a wide circle of acquaintances. They were good friends, indeed, of the publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli and his fourth wife Sibilla Melega. This led to Corradini and Vincileone being depicted as the organisational brains — the masterminds — behind the attacks.

Giangiacomo Feltrinelli and Sibilla Melega

Corradini was regarded by the Special Branch as an anarchist theorist because, in 1963, he had been in charge of running the monthly Materialismo e libertà, a paper deemed to have broken new ground in anarchist circles, but one that had been short-lived, running to only three issues.

In addition to this foursome there was also Angelo Piero Della Savia, who was extradited from Switzerland, and Tito Pulsinelli who was picked up in Riccione on 22 August. Pulsinelli was arrested with Enrico Rovelli who was, however, soon released. He dropped out of the investigation and joined the ranks of Inspector Calabresi’s informants. His role was finally exposed during the inquiries into the attack carried out outside police headquarters in Milan by Gianfranco Bertoli, an individualist anarchist, on 17 March 1970. Rovelli turned up a year later, still at large on the streets of Milan, as the organiser of big rock concerts and manager of the celebrated Rolling Stones Club on the Corso XXII Marzo.

17 May 1973, Milan Police Headquarters: Gianfranco Bertoli, an 'individualist anarchist' moments after throwing a handgrenade during the official inauguration of a plaque commemorating Inspector Dr. Luigi Calabresi. Among those present was Mariano Rumor, Italy's then minister of the Interior

17 May 1973: Bertoli's arrest outside Milan police headquarters (Questura). The reason he gave for the attack was to settle accounts with interior minister Mariano Rumor whome he blamed for the murder of Giuseppe Pinelli.

The anarchists were charged with both 25 April bomb attacks (conveniently, this occurred three days after the parliament was due to debate draft legislation on disarming the police and which, in view of the climate at the time, was set aside) and of another 18 lesser offences. The anarchists allegedly confessed to a number of the latter offences, but consistently rejected the charges relating to the 25 April bombings. When it came to court, they retracted their ‘admissions’, stating these had been extorted by Inspector Calabresi.

Corradini and Vincileone were freed from prison on 7 December 1969 due to lack of evidence and their alibi having been confirmed by Feltrinelli and Melega, (although the latter were indicted for perjury, a charge that was to collapse when it eventually came to court).

22 April 1971: trial of (l/r) Giovanni Corradini, Ivo Della Savia, Paulo Braschi, Paulo Faccioli and Eliana Vincileone (all were acquitted)

The trial opened on 22 April 1971, nearly two years after the initial arrests.  The accused were cleared of the Fiera campionaria and Central Station attacks on 28 May, after 36 sittings, but were convicted of six of the minor attacks. The sentences handed down were: Della Savia — eight years: Braschi — six years and ten months: Faccioli — three years and six months. The Court of Appeal later reduced these sentences in April 1976. Pulsinelli was cleared of all charges.

The trial ended with a substantial repudiation of the inquiries made by Inspector Calabresi and of Judge Amati’s examination. The charges brought against the anarchists relied mainly upon two witnesses, that of Rosemma Zublena and another whose name was to crop up again — ballistics expert Teonesto Cerri.

Zublena, Braschi’s former lover was twenty years or older than him and proved totally unreliable under cross-examination. She accused the young anarchists of the bombings, claiming that Braschi and the others had told her about their activities. Cornered by the defence lawyers, who exposed the contradictions in her evidence she tried, unsuccessfully, to claim Giuseppe Pinelli as the source of her information. Finally, after more pressure, she came out with the statement that said it all: ‘I have merely repeated what Calabresi knew.’

Antonio Scopelliti (prosecution counsel in the 25 April bombing trials)

Antonio Scopelliti (prosecution counsel in the 25 April bombing trials)

Even the prosecution counsel, Antonio Scopelliti, in his final summing up told the court to ignore her evidence: ‘The court should pay no heed to this witness who has stained a number of the pages of this indictment with her gross and cumbersome presence […] The role of witness is not suited to Zublena and the trial records have plainly exposed her weakness as a witness.”

Cerri, by contrast, stuck to his accusations by alleging theft of explosives from a quarry in Grone — a theft that had never been reported and which those in charge at the quarry denied had ever taken place. Yet, flying in the face of all reason, the jury confirmed the theft from the quarry. Why? — to justify the sentence handed down for the six minor offences and, incidentally, to show that Valpreda could have had explosives in his possession.

Even more seriously, however, the court chairman, Paolo Curatolo, ignored a document published at the beginning of December 1969 in The Observer and The Guardian newspapers in Britain. International experts had pronounced the document reliable.  This was a secret memorandum addressed to the Greek Foreign Affairs minister in which premier Giorgios Papadopoulos was briefed on the results of a provocative campaign mounted in Italy by the Greek government over some time — with the connivance of fascist groups and “some representatives from the army and the carabinieri.” The report speculated about the chances of a rightwing coup d’état through an escalation by action groups that had been in operation for some time past.

Greek facilitators: Junta leaders (l/r) generals Giorgios Zoitakis, Stylianos Pattakos and Giorgios Papadopoulos

The 3-page dossier assessed the activities of Luigi Turchi, a Movimento Sociale Italiana (MSI) [principal fascist party] deputy and by an unidentified Mr P.  It read: “Only on 25 April was it possible to mount the actions scheduled for earlier. The alteration to our plans was forced upon us by the fact that it was hard to gain access to the FIAT pavilion. Both actions have had a considerable impact.” The other action had been the Central Station explosion.

Rome, March 1968: neo-fascist MSI deputies (l/r) Sandro Saccucci, Luigi Turchi and Giulio Caradona

But then another even more sensational development occurred. On 13 April 1971 — a few days prior to the opening of the proceedings in Milan — Giancarlo Stiz, the examining magistrate in Treviso, issued warrants for the arrest of Giovanni Ventura, a 27 year old publisher and bookseller from Castelfranco Veneto, Franco Freda, a 35 year old prosecution counsel from Padua and Aldo Trinco, a 28 year old student.

Catanzaro, 18 January 1977: Franco Freda (left) and Giovanni Ventura (right) during the fourth Piazza Fontana massacre trial

Judge Stiz accused them of conspiracy to subvert and ‘procurement of war materials’ but also — above all— of planning bomb attacks in Turin in April 1969 and on the state railways in August 1969. Freda and Ventura would later be sentenced to 15 years in 1987 for these outrages and for the 25 April 1969 bombings in Milan.

However, there was one worrying detail with regard to this matter.  Gianni Casalini of the Padua Nazi group (and an SID informant code-name Turco) had told the secret services he had driven to Milan with an Ivano Toliolo, a confidant of Freda’s, who had brought with him a bag containing explosives. But Gianadelio Maletti, director of the SID’s D division (counter-intelligence), decided to bury this information.

General Giandelio Maletti (Servizio Informazioni Difesa - SID), Italian counter-intelligence

What happened in August 1969?

Ten trains travelling between Northern and Central-Southern Italy were targeted by eight bombs, which exploded between one o’clock and three o’clock on 9 August — another two failed to explode. Twelve people, passengers and railway employees, were injured. The cost-benefit outcome for the perpetrators was certainly not favourable. A lot of logistical effort had been deployed (the bomb on the Pescara-Rome train had needed the direct involvement of Freda and Ivan Biondo, also from the Nazi group in Padua) even though the desired effect was not produced. A climate of alarm was created, but no life had been lost.

Investigators Allegra and Calabresi again headed down the anarchist trail. Allegra, the head of the Milan Special Branch, put this allegation to Giuseppe Pinelli who laughed in his face. On that occasion, too, August 1969, the press ran with the police misinformation. On 13 August La Stampa carried a piece by-lined g.m. entitled ‘Anarchists have gone to ground to escape questioning’.

‘In the wake of the train bombings ‘ wrote the Turin daily’s correspondent, ‘the Milanese anarchists dropped out of circulation. Partly to go on holidays, partly to avoid police questioning, they have sought a change of air. Some were rounded up last April on charges relating to a flurry of attacks, of which the one at the Fair in Milan was one. Notwithstanding the evidence gathered by the police, those arrested still denied all the charges: perhaps the courts will establish the truth. The Milan anarchists have ‘gone to ground’ and the premises of La Comune at 39 Via Lanzone and of the Ponte della Ghisolfa group have been closed. After the Fair bombing, it seemed as if the young anarchists’ organisation had been smashed: in reality, their black flag was never taken down: the ranks have been reshuffled in accordance with new criteria to render it more difficult to identify new recruits.’

The article closed with some fantastic allegations: ‘Up until some time ago the anarchists in Milan were few in number, bereft of resources and unorganised. Now someone had taken it into his head to exploit their utopianism. The anarchists have been wooed and funded by the totalitarian right and the leftwing extremists.’

Notwithstanding back up from the press, the police in several cities failed to arrest or charge anyone — but the climate was right for a clampdown on extremists.  And so, in Milan, at dawn on 19 August, 150 police and carabinieri forced their way into the former Commercio hotel, now rechristened the Casa dell student e del laboratory. The building, due for demolition, was in the Piazza Fontana, directly opposite the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura branch.

Squatted after a student meeting on 28 November 1968, the premises had become a regular meeting-place for the far left: the newspapers described it as ‘a headquarters of Maoist and anarchist contestation.’ The police burst in on 58 sleeping people who were rounded up for identification. Three were arrested and released on 22 August. Immediately after the police forced entry, a demolition team went into action and within hours the premises had been reduced to rubble.