Archives for posts with tag: Mario Merlino

Gladio (Italian section of the Clandestine Planning Committee (CPC), founded in 1951 and overseen by SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers, Europe)

1969

25 April — Two bombs explode in Milan: one at the FIAT stand at the Trade Fair and another at the bureau de change in the Banca Nazionale delle Communicazione at Central Station. Dozens are injured but none seriously. Anarchists Eliane Vincileone, Giovanni Corradini, Paolo Braschi, Paolo Faccioli, Angelo Piero Della Savia and Tito Pulsinelli are arrested soon after.

2 JulyUnified Socialist Party (PSU), created out of an amalgamation of the PSI and the PSDI on 30 October 1966, splits into the PSI and the PSU.

5 July — Crisis in the three-party coalition government (DC, PSU and PRI) led by Mariano Rumor.

5 August — Rumor takes the helm of a single party (DC — Christian Democrat) government.

9 August — Ten bombs planted on as many trains. Eight explode and 12 people are injured.

7 December — Corradini and Vincileone are released from jail for lack of evidence.

Gladio

12 December — Four bombs explode. One planted in the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura in the Piazza Fontana in Milan claims 16 lives and wounds a further hundred people. In Rome a bomb explodes in the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, wounding 14, and two devices go off at the cenotaph in the Piazza Venezia, wounding 4. Another bomb — unexploded — is discovered at the Banca Commerciale in the Piazza della Scala in Milan. Four hours later, ordinance officers blow it up. Numerous arrests are made, chiefly of anarchists. Among those arrested is the anarchist Giuseppe Pinelli.

15 December — Anarchist Pietro Valpreda is arrested at the Milan courthouse and taken to Rome that evening. Around midnight, Pinelli ‘falls’ from the fourth floor at police headquarters in Milan.

In Vittorio Veneto, Guido Lorenzon visits lawyer Alberto Steccanella to report that a friend, Giovanni Ventura, may have been implicated in the 12 December bomb outrages.

16 December — Taxi-driver Cornelio Rolandi identifies Valpreda as the passenger he ferried close to the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura in the Piazza Fontana on the afternoon of 12 December.

17 December — Press conference by Milan anarchists at the Circolo Ponte della Ghisolfa. The Piazza Fontana massacre is described as a “State massacre”.

20 December —Nearly 3,000 people attend Pinelli’s funeral.

26 DecemberSteccanella takes an affidavit written by Lorenzon to the prosecutor in Treviso.

31 December — Treviso prosecutor Pietro Calogero questions Lorenzon.

1970

27 MarchRumor forms a four party government (DC, PSI, PSDI and PRI).

15 AprilInspector Luigi Calabresi begins proceedings against Pio Baldelli, the director of the weekly Lotta Continua who had accused him of responsibility for Pinelli’s death.

21 May — Milan examining magistrate Giovanni Caizzi asks that the file on Pinelli’s death be closed and that it be recorded as an accidental death.

3 JulyAntonio Amati, head of Milan CID, agrees to Caizzi’s request to close the file on Pinelli’s death.

22 July — Bomb on ‘Southern Arrow’ train kills 6 and injures 139.

6 AugustEmilio Colombo takes the helm of a four party coalition government (DC, PSI, PSDI and PRI).

9 OctoberCalabresi-Lotta Continua case opens. Aldo Biotti, with Michele Lener representing Calabresi, chairs the court. Baldelli’s lawyers are Marcello Gentili and Bianca Guidetti Serra. The prosecution counsel is Emilio Guicciardi.

7 DecemberPrince Junio Valerio, leader of the Fronte Nazionale, leads an attempted coup d’état. Licio Gelli, head of the P2 masonic lodge, is in charge of kidnapping the president of the republic, Giuseppe Saragat.

12 December — Demonstrations in Milan on the first anniversary of the Piazza Fontana massacre. Fierce clashes between police and demonstrators. Student Enzo Santarelli dies when struck in the chest by a tear-gas canister fired by the police.

1971

13 April — Treviso examining magistrate Giancarlo Stiz issues warrants for the arrest of three Venetian Nazi-fascists: Giovanni Ventura, Franco Freda and Aldo Trinco. The offences alleged against them are: conspiracy to subvert, procurement of weapons of war and attacks in Turin in April 1969 and on trains that August.

28 May — The anarchists tried in connection with the bombs in Milan on 25 April 1969 are acquitted. However, some are convicted of minor offences: Della Savia is sentenced to eight years, Braschi to six years and ten months, Faccioli to three years and six months. Tito Pulsinelli is cleared on all counts. All are freed from jail.

7 June — The Appeal Court in Milan accedes to a request by the lawyer Lener that Judge Biotti be discharged from the Piazza Fontana investigation.

16 July — Death of taxi-driver Rolandi, the sole witness against Valpreda.

4 October — A fresh inquest into Pinelli’s death is held as a result of a complaint brought by his widow Licia Rognini. Milan-based examining magistrate Gerardo D’Ambrosio brings voluntary homicide chargers against Inspector Calabresi, police officers Vito Panessa, Giuseppe Caracuta, Carlo Mainardi, Piero Mucilli, and carabinieri Lieutenant Savino Lograno.

21 OctoberJudge D’Ambrosio orders Pinelli’s corpse to be exhumed.

24 DecemberGiovanni Leone is elected president of Italy.

1972

17 FebruaryGiulio Andreotti forms his first government: it is made up exclusively of Christian Democrats.

23 February Piazza Fontana massacre trial opens in the Court of Assizes in Rome. Judge Orlando Falco presides. The prosecution counsel is Vittorio Occorsio. The accused are Pietro Valpreda, Emilio Bagnoli, Roberto Gargamelli, Enrico Di Cola, Ivo Della Savia, Mario Merlino, Ele Lovati Valpreda, Maddalena Valpreda, Rachele Torri, Olimpia Torri Lovati and Stefano Delle Chiaie. After a few hearings the court declares that it is not competent to hear to hear the case.

4 March — Treviso magistrates Stiz and Calogero have Pino Rauti, the founder of Ordine Nuovo and journalist with the Rome daily Il Tempo, arrested on charges of involvement in the subversive activities of Freda and Ventura.

6 March — Piazza Fontana trial is relocated to Milan.

15 March — Death of publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. His bomb-mangled body is discovered at the foot of an electricity pylon in Segrate, Milan.

22 March — Venetian magistrates Stiz and Calogero indict Freda and Ventura for the Piazza Fontana massacre in Milan.

26 March — The investigation by Stiz and Calogero is passed to the Milan district authorities. It is handled by examining magistrate D’Ambrosio to whom public prosecutor Emilio Alessandrini is seconded.

24 AprilJudge D’Ambrosio frees Pino Rauti for lack of evidence.

7 May — Early elections. Rauti is returned as deputy on the MSI ticket. Il Manifesto puts up Valpreda as a candidate but he is not elected.

17 MayInspector Calabresi is shot dead in Milan.

31 May — A bomb concealed in a car goes off in Peteano (Gradisca d’Isonzo) three carabinieri are killed and one wounded.

26 JuneAndreotti remains PM by forming a government with the DC, PSDI and PLI.

13 October — The Court of Cassation transfers the Piazza Fontana case to the Catanzaro jurisdiction.

10 November — A weapons arsenal is discovered in an isolated house near Camerino.

15 December — Parliament passes Law No 733, known also as the “Valpreda Law”.

30 December — Valpreda and the other anarchists from Rome’s Circolo 22 Marzo still in custody (including Gargamelli) are released. Merlino is also freed.

1973

15 January — Freda loyalist Marco Pozzan is smuggled out of the country by the SID.

9 AprilGuido Giannettini, Agent Zeta, is smuggled out of the country by the SID.

17 MayGianfranco Bertoli throws a bomb at Milan police headquarters: 4 people lose their lives and nearly 40 are injured.

7 JulyRumor returns to the government, supported by the DC, PSI, PSDI and PRI.

28 SeptemberEnrico Berlinguer, head of the Italian Communist Party, publishes his first article in the communist weekly Rinascita broaching the “historic compromise”.

1974

14 MarchRumor forms his fifth government with DC, PSI and PSDI support.

28 May — a bomb explodes in Brescia’s  Piazza della Loggia during a demonstration organised by the United Antifascist Committee and the trade unions: 8 people are killed and almost 100 injured.

30 MayFederico Umberto D’Amato is replaced as head of the Bureau of Confidential Affairs at the Interior Ministry.

20 JuneGiulio Andreotti, Minister of Defence, reveals in an interview with Il Mondo that Giannettini is a SID agent, while Corriere della Sera reporter Giorgio Zicari is an informant.

4 August — A bomb explodes on board the Italicus train on the Rome-Munich line as it passes through the San Benedetto Val di Sambro (Bologna) tunnel, killing 12 people and wounding 48.

8 AugustGiannettini surrenders himself to the Italian Embassy in Buenos Aires.

22 NovemberAldo Moro forms a DC-PRI coalition government.

1975

27 January — Piazza Fontana case opens before the Court of Assizes in Catanzaro. The accused are: Franco Freda, Giovanni Ventura, Marco Pozzan, Antonio Massari, Angelo Ventura, Luigi Ventura, Franco Comacchio, Giancarlo Marchesin, Ida Zanon, Ruggero Pan, Claudio Orsi, Claudio Mutti, Pietro Loredan, Gianadelio Maletti, Antonio Labruna, Guido Giannettini, Gaetano Tanzilli, Stefano Serpieri, Stefano Delle Chiaie, Udo Lemke, Pietro Valpreda, Mario Merlino, Emilio Bagnoli, Roberto Gargamelli, Ivo Della Savia, Enrico Di Cola, Maddalena Valpreda, Ele Lovati Valpreda, Rachele Torri and Olimpia Torri Lovati.

1 MarchBertoli is sentenced to life imprisonment for the 17 March 1973 bomb attack outside police headquarters in Milan. This sentence is upheld on appeal on 9 March 1976.

27 October — Milan magistrate D’Ambrosio closes the file on the Pinelli death. According to the finding, the anarchist died as the result of “active misfortune”. The ‘misfortune’ resulted in his having fallen out of the window. All those indicted for his death are absolved.

1977

1 OctoberFreda flees to Costa Rica. He will be arrested and extradited in August 1980.

23 NovemberGeneral Saverio Malizia, legal adviser to Defence Minister Mario Tanassi is convicted by the Court of Assizes in Catanzaro of perjury and is freed shortly afterwards.

1979

16 JanuaryVentura flees to Argentina.

23 February — The Catanzaro Court of Assizes returns its first verdict. Freda, Ventura and Giannettini are sentenced to life imprisonment for mass murder, outrages and justifying crime. Valpreda, cleared on the basis of insufficient evidence, is sentenced to four years and six months for criminal conspiracy. Merlino receives the same sentence. Gargamelli is sentenced to 18 months for criminal conspiracy. Bagnoli gets a two year suspended sentence. The perjury charges against Valpreda’s relations and Stefano Delle Chiaie are thrown out; Maletti is sentenced to four years for aiding and abetting and perjury; Labruna gets two years and Tanzilli gets one year for perjury.

1980

4 AprilFrancesco Cossiga forms a DC-PSI-PRI government.

30 July — The Potenza Court of Assizes acquits General Malizia after the Court of Cassation’s repeal of the 23 November 1977 verdict of the Catanzaro Court.

2 August — Bomb explodes in Bologna railway station killing 85 people and injuring dozens more.

18 OctoberArnaldo Forlani forms a four-party (DC-PSI-PSDI-PRI) coalition government.

1981

20 March — The Catanzaro Court of Appeal acquits Freda, Ventura, Giannettini, Valpreda and Merlino on grounds of insufficient evidence. Freda and Ventura are sentenced to 15 years each for conspiracy to subvert the course of justice, for the bombings of 25 April 1969 in Milan and for the train bombs of 9 August 1969. Charges against Maletti and Labruna are dismissed.

28 June — Five-party coalition government (DC-PSI-PSDI-PRI-PLI) forms under Giovanni Spadolini.

24 August — A commission of inquiry drops the charges against Giulio Andreotti, Mariano Rumor, Mario Tanassi and Mario Zagari accused of laying false trails by the SID.

1982

10 June — The Court of Cassation assigns a second appeal case to a court in Bari, leaving Giannettini out of the reckoning.

1985

1 August — The Appeal Court in Bari clears Freda, Ventura, Valpreda and Merlino of the charge of massacre on the grounds of insufficient evidence, but upholds the 15-year sentences on Freda and Ventura, and further reduces the sentences on Maletti (one year) and Labruna (ten months).

1986

1 AugustCraxi re-elected as premier of a five-party government.

1987

27 January — The first section of the Court of Cassation, with Corrado Carnevale presiding, rejects all appeals and upholds the verdict passed by the court in Bari on 1 August 1985. Freda, Ventura, Valpreda and Merlino are at last left out of the judicial reckoning.

1988

13 AprilCiriaco De Mita heads a five-party (DC-PSI-PRI-PSDI-PLI) government.

2 JulyLeonardo Marino, formerly with Lotta Continua, surrenders to the carabinieri in La Spezia. After 24 days he confesses his guilt to the carabinieri in Milan, naming himself as the getaway driver in the murder of Inspector Calabresi. He also accuses Ovidio Bompressi (another ex-member of Lotta Continua) as the actual killer, and at Adriano Sofri and Giorgio Pietrostefani, the two leaders of that extra-parliamentary organisation, as having ordered the killing.

1989

January — Examining magistrate Guido Salvini launches a new investigation into rightwing subversion and the Piazza Fontana massacre.

20 February — The Catanzaro Court of Assizes clears Delle Chiaie and Massimiliano Fachini of charges in connection with the Piazza Fontana massacre.

1991

12 April — Seventh Andreotti government, a four-party coalition (DC-PSI-PSDI-PLI).

5 July — The Catanzaro Appeal Court upholds the verdict clearing Delle Chiaie and Fachini of involvement in the Piazza Fontana massacre.

1994

11 MaySilvio Berlusconi forms a centre-right government including the FI, AN, LN and CCD. For the first time in post-war Italy the AN or Alianza Nazionale (formerly the MSI) is in government.

1995

13 MarchJudge Salvini orders proceedings to be instituted against Nico Azzi, Giancarlo Rognoni, Mauro Marzorati, Francesco De Min, Pietro Battiston, Paolo Signorelli, Sergio Calore, Martino Siciliano, Giambattista Cannata, Cristiano De Eccher, Mario Ricci, Massimiliano Fachini, Guido Giannettini, Stefano Delle Chiaie, Gianadelio Maletti, Sandro Romagnoli, Giancarlo D’Ovidio, Guelfo Osmani, Michele Santoro, Licio Gelli, Roberto Palotto, Angelo Izzo, Carlo Digilio, Franco Donati, Cinzia De Lorenzo and Ettore Malcangi for involvement in Piazza Fontana massacre.

April — Following the order for proceedings tabled by Judge Salvini, Grazia Pradella and Massimo Meroni are appointed prosecution counsel. D’Ambrosio is to supervise them.

1996

17 MayRomano Prodi forms a centre-left government including the PDS, PPI, RI, and UD, the Greens and supported from without by the RDS. For the first time in post-war Italy (since the governments in the immediate post-war years) the Democratic Left Party [PDS], formerly the PCI, is in government.

1 August — Death of Federico Umberto D’Amato, former chief of the Bureau of Confidential Affairs at the Interior Ministry.

4 October — Acting on behalf of Judge Salvini, the expert Aldo Giannuli finds 150,000 uncatalogued Interior Ministry files in a cache on the Via Appia on the outskirts of Rome.

1997

22 January — Sofri, Pietrostefani and Bompressi are finally convicted of killing Calabresi (this is their sixth trial) by the Court of Cassation and sentenced to 22 years in prison. Charges against Marino are thrown out.

2000

5 October — The Court of Cassation throws out the application for a review of the trial that led to Sofri, Pietrostefani and Bompressi being sentenced to 22 years in prison. It closes the ‘Sofri Case’ and marks the launch of a campaign for clemency.

11 March — Milan’s fifth court of assizes sentences Carlo Maria Maggi, Francesco Neami, Giorgio Boffelli and Amos Spiazzi to life imprisonment for their part in the bomb attack at Police HQ in Milan on 17 May 1973. Gianadelio Maletti is sentenced to 15 years for destroying and concealing evidence.

28 November — death of Gianfranco Bertoli.

2002

30 June — Milan’s second court of assizes sentences Delfo Zorzi, Carlo Maria Maggi and Giancarlo Rognoni to life imprisonment for the Piazza Fontana massacre of 12 December 1969. Stefano Tringali is sentenced to three years for aiding and abetting. Pentito Carlo Digilio receives a mandatory sentence.

7 July — death of Pietro Valpreda.

27 September — Appeal court Carlo Maria Maggi, Francesco Neami, Giorgio Boffelli and Amos Spiazzi of the 17 May 1973 bomb attack on Milan police HQ. Gianadelio Maletti’s conviction is overturned.

2003

11 July — The Court of Cassation reverses the acquittals of Carlo Maria Maggi, Francesco Neami and Giorgio Boffelli, and orders a fresh appeal hearing in relation to the attack on Milan police headquarters on 17 May 1973Amos Spiazzi and Gianadelio Maletti are finally absolved and acquitted.

2004

12 March — Milan court of appeal overturns the verdicts of 30 June 2001 which sentenced Delfo Zorzi, Carlo Maria Maggi and Giancarlo Rognoni to life imprisonment for the Piazza Fontana massacre. Now nobody is to blame for that massacre. Not even these three neo-nazi relics. Nobody planted the bomb in the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura. We need scarcely be surprised. The first verdict, back in 2001, came as a surprise, as did the first verdict in Catanzaro. The verdict of 23 February 1979 that — for that first crime — passed life sentences on Franco Freda, Giovanni Ventura and Guido Giannettini. Those two verdicts were, in fact, an anomaly. If, as I believe I have shown, Piazza Fontana was a state massacre, why on earth would the state want to sit in judgment on itself? Let alone the actual perpetrators? The Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale militants were the witting-unwitting pawns in a game bigger the one that they were playing. The neo-Nazis wanted to change the social and political order in order to introduce an authoritarian, hierarchical regime that would make a clean sweep of “bourgeois democracy”, whereas those in power wanted to cling to that power, not hand it over to the Left. It will be a topic of conversation again in a few years, once nearly forty years have gone by since the massacre. By then it will be nothing but history. Revised and amended, in accordance with the dictates of the revisionism that now rules the roost. However, the verdict from the Milan appeal court contains some spectacular contradictions. First, there is the crude contradiction. At the first trial, Stefano Tringali was sentenced to three years for aiding and abetting; now his sentence has been reduced to one year. How can he still be guilty of aiding and abetting when the main accused have been acquitted? What aiding and abetting could he possibly have done if  no crime was committed?

A mystery, one of the many mysteries created by the Italian judiciary. In essence, Milan’s magistrates have declared that the pentito Carlo Digilio is an unreliable witness because he has repeatedly contradicted himself and made mistakes. True he has made some — after suffering a stroke that has left him somewhat impaired — whereas the other pentito, Martino Siciliano, is to be heeded, even though he has supplied “hearsay” evidence which cannot be used for the purposes of trial. A pity no notice was taken of the fact that the magistrate who laid the groundwork for this trial, Guido Salvini, did not draw the line at the evidence laid by the pentiti but looked for — and found — specific confirmation of what Digilio and Siciliano had been saying. It wasn’t enough that Zorzi (initially defended by Gaetano Pecorella, chairman of the Chamber of Deputies’ Justice Commission, a man who also defended Silvio Berlusconi), had repeatedly threatened and plied Siciliano with bundles of cash to retract.  Siciliano was, in fact, a “wavering” pentito, but in the end, in the courtroom, he confirmed each of the charges. That was not enough. The acquittal of the trio underlines the old formula of insufficient evidence — which formally no longer obtains. The Milan judges then tacked on this real “gem” in explaining the reasoning behind their acquittal verdict. Retracing the sequence of the 1969 outrages, they concede that Giovanni Ventura and Franco Freda may well have been behind the Piazza Fontana bombing and not just the bomb attacks of 25 April in Milan and the train bombings on 9 August, for which they had already been sentenced to 15 years. The last laugh came in Milan. The two culprits identified by the Treviso investigating magistrate – Giancarlo Stiz (See Chapter 15 – On the Trail of the Fascists) could be the real culprits even though there is insufficient proof of their connections with the Ordine Nuovo group in Venezia-Mestre and Milan. However, there is this small detail: Freda and Ventura were finally acquitted on 1 August 1985 and thus could not be charged with that offence.

Then (years ago) the upper echelons of the Italian state — the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, who for years have effectively been working in cahoots with the Italian and American secret services (using rightwing extremists as their cohorts) in order to preserve the status quo in Italy, even at the price of bombs and outrages — were dropped from the case. Pietro Valpreda died on 7 July 2002. So many other protagonists are now dead too, and many of their confederates have also left the stage. Developments in the case have been followed vaguely by leading newspapers, and it was only the acquittal verdict that was given any real prominence. No one is to be guilty of  the “mother of all outrages”. That is how “reason of state” wants it to be. Luckily, there are some who refuse to play ball. Every 12 December many thousands of 15-18 year old students demonstrate in so many squares around Italy and in Milan, and the Milan procession ends in the Piazza Fontana. That outrage remains an indictment of the criminality of the powers that be. What may be covered up in the courtrooms is “fact” for many. Very many — that has to count for something.

VIDEO LINKS:

LA STORIA SIAMO NOI

1: Piazza Fontana

2: La Pista Anarchica

3: Ordine Nuovo

4: Servizio Secreto

5: The Trial

6: Report on Terrorism

7: The Strategy of Tension

8: Nucleo di Difesa di stato

9: The role of the United States

10: The Borghese Coup

11: The Death of Pinelli

12: The Death of Calabresi

13: Calabresi’s crimes

14:  Calabresi – First Victim

15: Gladio

THE BLACK ORCHESTRA (1-9)

L’Orchestre Noir 1

L’Orchestre Noir 2-9

L’Orchestre Noir 3-9

L’Orchestre Noir 4-9

L’Orchestre Noir 5-9

L’Orchestre Noir 6-9

L’Orchestre Noir 7-9

L’Orchestre Noir 8-9

L’Orchestre Noir 9-9

GLADIO

Episode 1: The Ring Masters 1992

Episode 2: The Puppeteers 1992

Episode 3: Foot Soldiers 1992

DIARIO DI UN CRONISTA — TERRORISMO NERO

Diario di un cronista – Terrorismo nero – parte 1

Diario di un cronista – Terrorismo nero – parte 2

Diario di un cronista Terrorismo nero parte 3

PIAZZA FONTANA: Una strage lunga quarant’anni.

Parla Roberto Gargamelli 1/2.

Parla Francesco Piccioni. 2/2

Piazza Fontana – Strategia della tensione  (magistrato Pietro Calogero sulla strage di Piazza Fontana 12 dicembre 1969)

ANNI SPIETATI

Anni spietati – Milano – prima parte (69)

Anni spietati – Milano – seconda parte (72) 

Anni spietati – Milano – terza parte  (75)

Advertisements

Rome, Feb 1972: Pietro Valpreda, Roberto Gargamelli and Emilio Bagnoli — and nine others (Piazza Fontana trial presided over by judge Orlando Falco)

The proceedings had been under way for only a few days before everything ground to a halt. The scene was the Court of Assizes in Rome and the trial, which opened on 23 February 1972, was that of the anarchists from the Circolo 22 Marzo, of Pietro Valpreda’s relations and, in his absence, the Nazi-fascist Stefano Delle Chiaie for giving perjured evidence on Mario Merlino’s behalf.

But the judges, however, soon realised that the matter was not within their competence. Prompted by some of the anarchists’ defence lawyers — Francesco Piscopo, Giuliano Spazzali, Placido La Torre and Rocco Ventre — court president Orlando Falco chose to rid himself of what had become a hot potato of a trial. Even the public prosecutor Vittorio Occorsio tried to pin the shortcomings and partiality of the investigation on his colleague, examining magistrate Ernesto Cudillo.

It was as though he wanted it forgotten that he had launched the investigations. It was he who had arranged the identification by taxi-driver Cornelio Rolandi. Again, it was he who — in the indictment presented to the courts, as if to salvage the only piece of evidence on which he had built his indictment — had denied the glaringly obvious.

Occorsio wrote:

What Rolandi claimed in the preliminary section of the identification document — ‘I was shown by the carabinieri in Milan a photograph that I was told must the person whom I should recognise’ — should be taken to mean that when Rolandi was shown Valpreda’s photograph at police headquarters, the taxi driver was asked to identify him — yes or no, of course — as the person he had carried in his taxi. Any inference in this connection regarding supposed and implicit solicitation of positive recognition is quite gratuitous.” And in order to hammer home this convoluted reasoning, he concluded: “Indeed if the word ‘should’ was used, the obligation implicit in that very term refers to the judicial burden of the act of identification rather to the results thereof.”

Faced with such untenable positions the Court in Rome switched everything to Milan on 6 March. The trial had returned, as judicial logic would have it, to the city where the massacre had occurred. But Milan prosecutor-general, Enrico De Peppo, was not having that. According to him, Milan could not offer the necessary neutrality in which to debate a matter of such delicacy. Furthermore — according to De Peppo — the city was virtually under the control of extra-parliamentary leftists eager to mount actions “designed to demonstrate — regardless of due process — the alleged innocence of Valpreda and the other co-accused.” Actions that might provoke a response from the far right. He applied to the Court of Cassation to have the case relocated again, and on 13 October the case was placed under the jurisdiction of the Catanzaro Court of Assizes.

But it did not begin immediately. It was not until 27 January 1975 that proceedings opened, proceedings that would find the anarchists — Pietro Valpreda, Emilio Bagnoli, Emilio, Roberto Gargamelli, Ivo Della Savia and Enrici Di Cola; Valpreda’s relations — Maddalena Valpreda, Ele Lovati, Rachele Torri and Olimpia Torri — in the dock beside the indescribable Mario Merlino, the Nazi-fascists: Franco Freda, Giovanni Ventura, Stefano Delle Chiaie, Marco Pozzan and Piero Loredan di Volpato del Montello; fascists working for the secret services: Guido Giannettini and Stefano Serpieri, and SID officers: Gianadelio Maletti, Antonio Labruna and Gaetano Tanzilli.

Emilio Alessandrini (Milan magistrate)

Why this motley crew? The Catanzaro court combined two trials that led to irreconcilable results — the investigation by Occorsio and Cudillo and the later investigation by Milanese magistrates Gerard D’Ambrosio and Emilio Alessandrini. The latter case also relied on inquiries conducted by magistrates in Treviso and Padua and elsewhere — inquiries that had brought to light the part played by the fascists and secret services in the bombing strategy.

The first verdict was returned on 23 February 1979, nearly ten years after the attacks. Three life sentences — for Freda, Ventura and Giannettini, for the massacre and outrages. But Giannettini was the only one in court: Freda was on the run in Costa Rica and Ventura in Argentina. Maletti was sentenced to four years for procuring perjured testimony and Labruna and Tanzilli each got two years. Valpreda and Gargamelli were cleared of massacre, on grounds of insufficient evidence and convicted on the count of criminal conspiracy. Valpreda was sentenced to four years and six months and Gargamelli one year and six months. Bagnoli was given a two year suspended sentence for criminal conspiracy; Merlino was cleared on grounds of insufficient evidence, but got four years and six months for criminal conspiracy.

Rome, 29 December 1972: Roberto Gargamelli

The treatment doled out to Valpreda’s relations— who had supported the anarchist’s alibi — was somewhat ambiguous and the perjury charge was thrown out. The same line was taken with Delle Chiaie. And what of Elena Segre, Valpreda’s friend, who had also confirmed the anarchist’s alibi? She had vanished from the records. Another mystery.

The findings handed down in Catanzaro amounted to a contradictory sentence: it recognised the guilt of Freda, Ventura and Giannettini, but was still partly rooted in the case prepared by Judges Occorsio and Cudillo — hence the decision to dismiss the case against the anarchists and conspiracy convictions on the basis of insufficient evidence.

But something else cast an ambiguous light on the verdict. Faced with reticence on the part of some of the VIP witnesses, the judges in Catanzaro opted not to take action themselves, and referred the trial records relating to ex-premiers Giulio Andreotti and Mariano Rumor, and former ministers Mario Tanassi (Defence) and Mario Zagari (Justice) back to Milan. The judges did, however, have grounds for pride in the contradictions into which General Saverio Malizia, Tanassi’s legal adviser, blundered and had him arrested in the courtroom. He was tried immediately and sentenced to one year, but was soon released. This was followed by the usual outcome — the Court of Cassation annulled the trial and referred the case to the Court of Assizes in Potenza who cleared Malizia on all counts on 30 July 1980.

To the aid of the politicians came the judge from Milan, Luigi Fenizio (to whom the investigation had passed when Alessandrini was killed by members of the underground Prima Linea organisation on 29 January 1979) who forwarded an order declaring their innocence to the parliamentary commission of inquiry. On 24 August 1981 the commission closed the file on the accusations against Andreotti, Rumor, Tanassi and Zagari and all four politicians were dropped from the investigation.

But the real sensation came at the appeal hearing when, on 20 March 1981, the Catanzaro court cleared the fascists and the anarchists on the count of massacre. So now no one was to blame for the Piazza Fontana. Freda and Ventura were sentenced to 15 years for conspiracy to subvert and for the bomb attacks of 25 April 1969 and 9 August 1969. In effect, the judges unpicked the logical continuity — underpinned by the evidence — which linked the three main 1969 attacks. They absolved Giannettini on grounds of insufficient evidence and reduced the sentences passed on Maletti and Labruna.

The court of Cassation had this in mind when, on 10 June 1982, it entrusted a second appeal to Bari, to put paid once and for all to the proceedings against Giannettini, who was able to announce: “The implication of myself was prompted by political motives. The intention was to strike at the SID through me.”

The same ritual was played out in the appeal court in Bari (Puglia) — with one outstanding difference: the prosecutor, Umberto Toscani, asked that Valpreda be found not guilty. But the judges chose to stick with tradition:  doubt should serve the fascists as well as the anarchists. Meanwhile, they reduced Maletti’s sentence — who was on the run in South Africa — to one year, and that of Labruna to ten months.

With that verdict on 1 August 1985 the curtain was to be brought down on the Piazza Fontana massacre. The final act came in the Court of Cassation in Rome, which rejected every application for a new trial (the Cassation was in fact the central prop of this courtroom farce). It was the highest levels of the judiciary that had taken the initial investigation away from Milan and entrusted them to Rome. They were the ones who had argued that Milan was ungovernable and that the trial should be heard in Catanzaro. They had also conjoined the cases against the anarchists and the fascists.

On 27 January 1987, the first section of the Court of Cassation put paid to a trial that had spread out to occupy time and space. It was Judge Corrado Carnevale (who was later to earn fame as the “verdict-quashing judge”) who was in charge of the most important section of the Court of Cassation and who distinguished himself as the “king of the nit-pickers”, who put Mafiosi, terrorists and bankrupts back on the streets.

Judge Corrado Carnevale

Mario Tutti

Here are a few examples of this: on 16 December 1987, Carnevale annulled the Italicus massacre case, the main accused in which were the neo-fascists Mario Tuti and Luciano Franci. Earlier he had repealed the life sentence passed on the Greco brothers who had been found guilty of ordering the murder of Judge Rocco Chinnici. On 25 June 1990 Carnevale repealed the life sentence passed on Raffaele Cutolo, head of the mafioso Nuova Camorra Organizzata. He also cleared Licio Gelli, on 15 October 1990, on charges of subversion and membership of an armed gang. On 5 March 1991 he ordered a retrial in the case of the 24 December 1984 bombing of the Naples-Milan express in which 16 people were killed and hundreds injured. The upshot of this was the repeal of the life sentence passed on mafia boss Pippo Calò. Such frantic activity could scarcely pass unremarked and in 1995 Judge Carnevale’s performance was the subject of a book, La giustizia è cosa nostra (Justice is Our Thing).

Mario Tuti and Luciano Franci

Carnevale has repealed 134 life sentences — 19 of which were passed on the mafioso Mommo Piromalli — plus 700 years’ imprisonment for 96 people charged with mafia membership, drug-dealing and murders.

In short, now the massacre was the subject of new court proceedings following the arrest of Delle Chiaie, Carnevale was the very man for the Piazza Fontana case. And so, on 26 October 1987, the seventh trial relating to the Piazza Fontana massacre — not counting the two aborted by the Court of Cassation — opened with Delle Chiaie and Massimiliano Fachini together in the dock. After 90 sittings, both men were cleared of involvement on 20 February 1989, a verdict confirmed by the Court of Appeal on 5 July 1991


Inspector Luigi Calabresi of the Milan Special Branch

FASCISTS PLANTING BOMBS. Police arresting anarchists. That is the traditional view of this story. The orders came from above. The left had to be hit and the man in Milan to do it was Inspector Luigi Calabresi. Like his Roman political squad colleague, Umberto Improta, Calabresi carried out these orders with the utmost diligence. On the afternoon of the 12 December bombings, Calabresi was quick to zero in on “that criminal lunatic Valpreda”. After all, it had worked for him after the 25 April bombings when he had jailed anarchists for the bombs at the Fair and at Central Station in Milan. But he was not happy when, only a few days earlier, on 7 December, Antonio Amati, the head of the Milan investigation bureau, had been obliged to free two of them — Giovanni Corradini and Eliane Vincileone — for lack of evidence. Now, faced with carnage of the Piazza Fontana, Calabresi was not going to make do with youngsters like Paolo Braschi and his friends. He needed an adult and Valpreda, at 36, was the right age. He needed someone like Valpreda who had had dropped his characteristic irony and self-mockery and was now given to hotheaded talk.

Hanging out in bars in the Brera (once Milan’s artists’ quarter) Valpreda would launch into long, heated speeches, which were increasingly tainted with a flavour of “fire and brimstone”. The Brera was also teeming with police informers, and the value of an informant is determined by the “quality” of the intelligence he can pass to police headquarters. Valpreda’s speeches grew more exaggerated in the telling and re-telling. Was Valpreda all for confrontations during demonstrations? He was for urban guerrilla warfare. Did he ever talk about “exemplary actions” carried out by a handful of people, but capable of galvanising the masses? He wanted outrages carried out.

Valpreda laid himself wide open with his increasingly “purple” statements and when he joined forces with two young anarchists, Leonardo Claps, aka Steve, and Aniello D’Errico to launch the duplicated bulletin Terra e libertà, the organ of the I Iconoclasti group, group (that is, those three), he wrote a piece for the first (and only) issue in March 1969 entitled “Ravachol is back”.

The arrest of Ravachol at the Restaurant Very, Paris (Flavio Costantini)

This was seized upon by the police to substantiate their thesis that Valpreda was bomb-crazy. Ravachol was the pseudonym used by a French anarchist, François-Claudius Koenigstein, guillotined in 1892 and renowned in late 19th century Paris for his dynamite attacks on the high bourgeoisie. In the public’s collective imagination Ravachol was the very stereotype of the anarchist. Yet, in that article, after listing a succession of small attacks (nearly all of them using something reminiscent of a letter-bomb, or big fire-crackers rather than real explosives), Valpreda had closed his article with this comment: “Hundreds of youngsters are ready to organise in order to take their places as enemies of the State and to cry out ‘No God and No Master’, with Ravachol’s dynamite, Caserio’s dagger, Bresci’s pistol, Bonnot’s machine-gun, and the bombs of Filippi and Henry. Quake, bourgeois! Ravachol is back!

If such mind-boggling prose left the police in ecstasy, it infuriated Giuseppe Pinelli. “I booted that twat Valpreda out of the Ponte [della Ghisolfa]”, he told his comrades from the Bandiera Nera group. After that, from the beginning of 1969 on, relations between Pinelli and Valpreda had cooled. And when Pinelli attended the Gruppi di iniziativa anarchica (GIA) — one of the three strands which made up Italy’s organised anarchist movement alongside the Italian Anarchist Federation (FAI) and the Federated Anarchist Groups (GAF) (the Bandiera Nera group to which Pinelli belonged was linked to the GAF) — convention in Empoli on 2 November 1969, the friction between them worsened. After the convention the anarchists gathered in a trattoria. Valpreda said hello to Pinelli but got no response. Indeed Pinelli used this chance to tell him that he did not regard him as a friend and therefore had no reason to acknowledge his greeting. Valpreda, his dignity offended in front of everyone, flew off the handle and threw a salt-cellar at Pinelli. It was the last time they set eyes on each other.

In Rome, Valpreda fell out with the anarchists from the Circolo Bakunin whom he called too staid and only good for making speeches. He argued on more than one occasion that the students and workers were shrugging off the old regime so time to strike was now. And so, with a group of youngsters in tow — Roberto Mander, Roberto Gargamelli, Enrico Di Cola, and another, Emilio  — he set up the Circolo 22 Marzo. This was the group joined by Mario Merlino, officially formerly of the Avanguardia Nazionale, and by “comrade Andrea”, i.e. Salvatore Ippolito, a public security agent. These two ‘plants’ were to be complemented, on and off and from the outside, by Stefano Serpieri (one of the founders of Ordine Nuovo with Pino Rauti and since the mid-1960s a regular SID informant). Serpieri’s role was marginal but he wanted to ingratiate himself with his superiors. After all he still had to justify the retainer that he was paid by the SID.

Under such surveillance, the members of the Circolo 22 Marzo set about engaging in “politics”. To them this meant taking part in demonstrations which usually ended in clashes, carrying out token actions such as — under Merlino’s leadership — 7 October, throwing a petrol bomb at the door of the MSI branch in Colle Oppio). In short, raising their profile.

Circolo 22 Marzo

Valpreda was the oldest and could boast a sound command of anarchist thought. It was natural, therefore, that he became the most visible member of the Circolo 22 Marzo. The police of course knew this. After the 9 August bomb attacks Valpreda was picked up a dozen times. The police also tried to get him to crack by offering money (98,000 lire) and held out the prospect of his getting a contract with RAI TV. But Valpreda refused to bite and told the police to get stuffed. So surveillance on the group was stepped up, even though it was not doing any more than many other extreme leftwing groups. Why all the attention? The answer is simple: Valpreda was being targeted. He would make a good scapegoat, should the political situation require one. It was not important that he was not doing anything particularly serious: he — an anarchist and a member of a group which in practice had cut itself off from other Rome anarchists — regularly made inflammatory speeches and claimed to have thrown the odd Molotov cocktail. His image fitted the bill. That he was innocent did not matter.

Only by using that sort of reasoning can we comprehend how, in the immediate aftermath of the bombings, Calabresi came to pester every arrested anarchist for news about “that criminal lunatic Valpreda”. Calabresi knew about the falling-out between Pinelli and Valpreda, just as he knew that the Rome anarchist Aldo Rossi was not well disposed towards “that guy from Milan who makes a mess of things unaided.” Maybe he believed that levelling the massacre charges at Valpreda would not bring any response from the anarchists. The charges against him might not do their image any good, but after all the only people indicted would be Valpreda and one or two others from the Circolo 22 Marzo. But the inspector was mistaken.  In part because there was also the matter of our having lost Pinelli.

An unforeseen event occurred. A tiny movement numbering only a few thousand supporters across Italy mobilised with a speed and determination that almost defied belief. A counter-information campaign was launched that — while it found the anarchists out on their own to begin with — had, within a few weeks drawn in ever-widening sectors of the left until it even engaged the un-politicised. By the end of January 1970, tens of thousands of Milanese were taking to the streets to demonstrate opposition to the repression in the wake of the Piazza Fontana massacre.

But the phrase “State massacre” had yet to enter the vocabulary of the left. Indeed, on 24 March 1970, the Milanese anarchists were on their own when they demonstrated under that catch phrase. But over the succeeding months, other demonstrations, rallies, debates, public declarations by intellectuals and cultural figures set the seal on a profound change in the attitudes of many people. Valpreda turned from being a guilty party into an innocent and “the accidental death of an anarchist” became a Dario Fo farce that toured Italy and abroad, holding the police account up to ridicule. Virtually every Italian director signed up to a documentary on the various hypotheses that could have led to Pinelli’s demise. These all read like an indictment of the police — above all of Calabresi. In short, the massacre was becoming a burden upon police, magistrates and secret services.

After three years, on 15 December 1972, parliament got around to voting on law no 773 (which came to be known as the “Valpreda law”) that freed Valpreda from prison. Article 2 of this law allowed the granting of “temporary release to the accused who finds himself in preventive custody […] even in instances where binding arrest warrants have been issued.” Which are precisely the circumstances in which anarchists from the Circolo 22 Marzo found themselves. Acquitted with Valpreda on 30 December were Borghese, Gargamelli and Merlino. Mander had been freed several months earlier and Di Cola escaped to Sweden where he was welcomed as a political refugee.

Enrico di Cola of the Circolo XX Marzo (on the run in Switzerland)

The monthly A-rivista anarchica (which in those days was selling upwards of 10,000 copies) published an editorial in January 1973 entitled “Our Victory:” “Valpreda, Gargamelli and Borghesi are Free! […] The government has budged under pressure from ‘respectable’ segments of democratic public opinion. It would be crass triumphalism for us to argue that we, the anarchists, the revolutionaries, got it to shift. Yet we are convinced, without bragging, that it represents a victory for us, not the democrats. First of all because we shook that democratic public opinion out of its customary slumber, we forced it to feel scandalised, to feel indignation. Secondly, because, in spite of everything, the repressive structures of the ‘democratic’ State have, in the eyes of the public, emerged bruised from the affair, albeit given a fresh coat of democracy. The victory is ours, we say again, and we do not accept the defeatist pessimism of those who look upon the discharge from prison as merely a shrewd move by the authorities.  It is that as well, to be sure […] but the release of Valpreda, Gargamelli and Borghese remains substantially a defeat for the State and a victory for us.”

However, the progress of the trials arising out of the Piazza Fontana carnage, which would conclude in 1991, were to show that whoever it was, within the State, who had devised the strategy of tension — he had certainly not acknowledged defeat.


Francesco Restivo (1911-1976): Christian Democrat MP, President of the Regional Council of Sicily (1949-1955), and Minister of the Interior (1968 1972)

Two of the protagonists in our tale, Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale, were important and leading players.  Why? According to the most recent evidence it was members of these organisations that carried out the outrages in Milan and Rome on 12 December 1969. But they were not merely the operatives of terror. The relationship between the executors and the masterminds was more complicated than that. It was not a simple case of “Take this bomb and go and blow the thing to kingdom come”. There was a web of complicities, promptings, assistance and mutual blackmail that added up to some of the most poisonous pages in Italian history. A history that witnessed the Interior Ministry itself, in the shape of the man in charge at the ministry, Franco Restivo and many of his successors, especially Federico Umberto D’Amato, head of the Confidential Affairs Bureau (disbanded in 1978) as puppet-masters of the strategy of tension.

Federico Umberto D'Amato (Bureau of Reserved Affairs, Ministry of the Interior)

The bottom dropped out D’Amato’s world (who died on 1 August 1996) when, at the end of that year, 150,000 or so uncatalogued files (from which some of the most compromising documents may well have been removed) were discovered in a villa in the Via Appia on the outskirts of Rome — and not just documents either.  There was, for example, the dial of the timer used in the 9 August 1969 bombing of the Pescara-Rome train (the one carried out by Franco Freda himself).

Aldo Gianulli

This documentation, uncovered on 4 October 1996, after D’Amato’s demise, by Aldo Giannuli, an expert appointed by Judge Salvini, added up to an alternative record of the goings-on at the Viminale Palace. They contained information on many of the stories bound up with domestic espionage activity.  It was a secret archive that had never been shredded, simply deposited higgledy-piggledy in a dump— perhaps for possible future use.

At this point we need to go back forty years or so when, in 1956, Giuseppe Rauti, known as Pino, began to display signs of intolerance towards the “petit bourgeois and legalitarian” policy of Arturo Michelini, the secretary of his party, the Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI).  Michelini had been elected supreme leader of the Italian neofascists in 1954 and was regarded as too soft in the parliamentary confrontations between the Christian Democratic right and the “hard-liners” from Giorgio Almirante’s faction.

Giorgio Almirante (left) and Pino Rauti (right) in 1956

Rauti was one of the hardest of hard-liners. He broke away from the MSI to set up the Ordine Nuovo study centre with Clemente Graziani, Paolo Signorelli, Stefano Serpieri and Stefano Delle Chiaie. In the autumn of 1969, when Giorgio Almirante became secretary of the MSI, Rauti returned to the party and dissolved the study centre.  This was only a formality as the Ordine Nuovo groups and organisation continued operating for several more years.

In 1958 Delle Chiaie began to cut loose from Rauti’s apron strings and in 1960 this led to his launching Avanguardia Nazionale. This latter organisation was formally disbanded in 1966 to allow many of its members to rejoin the MSI, but in 1968 Delle Chiaie formally refloated the never disbanded organisation.

Julius Evola

Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale were substantially the same ideologically. Their main theoretical reference point was the philosopher Julius Evola, whom Rauti had known in the later 1940s. Their programmes were based on the struggle against communism and capitalism and in support of a corporatist State, following the model of the 28 August 1919 revolutionary nationalist programme of the Fasci di Combattimento established in the Piazza San Sepolcro in Milan on 23 March 1919. That programme had been refined (in its presentation at least) by the Salò Republic (the volunteers of which had included the then 17 year old Rauti). The fight was also directed against the parliamentary system and all forms of democracy, in order to bring about an aristocratic and organic State, borrowing the ideas of Nazi Germany. The ultimate goal was a New European Order.

In practice, both organisations shared Italian territory: Ordine Nuovo’s groups were located primarily in the North, whereas those of Avanguardia Nazionale were based mainly in Rome and the South.

Carlo Maria Maggi

By the spring of 1969 they began to operate jointly. The Venetian leadership of Ordine Nuovo met the Rome-based leaders of Avanguardia Nazionale on 18 April 1969 in Padua, in the home of Ivano Toniolo, one of Freda’s most loyal lieutenants. With the blessing of Carlo Maria Maggi, the boss of Ordine Nuovo in the Triveneto area and of the national leadership, Signorelli and Rauti. From then on the two organisations were to operate in concert with each other, at least in large-scale operations. On 25 April the bombs exploded in Milan (at the Fair and at Central Station).

An operational axis had been formed stretching from Venice through Padua to Milan, down to the capital and as far as Reggio Calabria. And the personnel? Venice was represented by Delfo Zorzi, Martino Siciliano, Giancarlo Vianello (who infiltrated Lotta Continua in 1970, fell in love with a member of that group and eventually parted company with his fascist colleagues), Paolo Molin and Piercarlo Montagner — with “technical” backup from Carlo Digilio.

In Padua, under Freda’s leadership, there were Giovanni Ventura, Massimiliano Fachini and Marco Pozzan. Giancarlo Rognoni was the acknowledged leader of the La Fenice group in Milan. In Rome, Delle Chiaie presided over Avanguardia Nazionale, while in Reggio Calabria its bulwark was the Marchese Felice Genoese Zerbi who could call on a sizable band of determined militants such as Carmine Dominici, Giuseppe Schirinzi and Aldo Pardo.

These were characters with chequered pasts. Freda and Ventura were eventually to be convicted of 17 attacks mounted between 15 April and 9 August 1969 (including the bombings in Milan on 25 April and the train bombings on 9 April). Rognoni was spared 23 years in prison by going on the run, primarily to Spain, and was in fact sentenced in his absence for an attack mounted by his lieutenant, Nico Azzi.

Nico Azzi (the Turin-Rome train bomber)

On 7 April 1973 a bomb exploded in a toilet on the Turin-Rome train, but the bomber, Azzi, however, did not get away unscathed. The device had exploded while he was handling it — or rather it went off between his legs. He was injured, arrested, tried and sentenced to 20 years. Two other La Fenice members — Mauro Marzorati and Francisco De Min — ended up in jail with him.

Paulo Signorelli

The attack, planned in the presence of Ordine Nuovo ideologue Paolo Signorelli, was intended to distract the Milan magistrates’ inquiries into the Piazza Fontana bombing — and as a focus for a maggioranza silenziosa (silent majority) demonstration planned for Milan on 12 April. Following the bombing someone was to have made a telephone call claiming responsibility on behalf of a leftwing organisation.

A strong character, tough, quick to use his fists, his face frequently marked by wounds, he was not impressed by the sight of blood and inflicted punishments personally on errant colleagues. But at the same time he was introverted and fascinated with both Buddhism and Evola’s ideas. This was how Siciliano described his leader, Zorzi. This was the man who would confess on at least two occasions that he had had a hand in the 12 December 1969 bombing in Milan.

On 31 December 1969, Zorzi, Siciliano and Vianello were celebrating New Year’s Eve with a visit to prostitutes in the Corso del Popolo in Mestre. “This was a cameratesca (comradely) practice linked to the fascist notion of virility”, Siciliano noted. They then went to Vianello’s home for a meal, a drink and to sing fascist songs.  The conversation then turned to the bombings of a few days earlier.

Delfo Zorzi (1969)

Siciliano told Judge Salvini on 8 June 1996: “Zorzi reminded us that according to our greatest theorists even blood can serve as a trigger for a national revolution which, launched in Italy, could be the salvation of Europe by rescuing it from communism. He picked up on the line that had already been given out in Padua — that the common people, stricken and defenceless, would clamour for a strong State, especially since the strategy anticipated that such serious incidents would be laid at the door of the far left.”

According to Siciliano, Zorzi’s closing remarks were: “He gave us clearly to understand that the anarchists had had no hand or part in anything and that they had been used as scapegoats simply because of their history — that sort of charge levelled against them was believable — and that in reality the Milan and Rome attacks had even thought up and commissioned at the highest levels and actually carried out by the Triveneto Ordine Nuovo.”

In January 1996 Digilio told Judge Salvini what Zorzi told him in Mestre in 1973: “Listen, I was personally involved in the operation to plant the bomb at the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura”. And, Digilio continued: “That was what he said, word for word and I remember it well, not least because of the seriousness of the words. Zorzi never mentioned those killed in the bombing but he did use the term ‘operation’ as if it had been a war-time operation.”

At this point Zorzi explained to Digilio: “I dealt with things personally and it was no easy undertaking. I had help from the son of a bank director.”

Delfo Zorzi (now)

Zorzi moved to Japan after Judges Giancarlo Stizin Treviso, Pietro Calogero in Padua, Gerardo D’Ambrosio and Emilio Alessandrini in Milan began chasing up the fascist trail in connection with the Piazza Fontana outrage.

In Tokyo, where he now lives, having married a Japanese woman by whom he has had a daughter, Zorzi runs an import-export firm which has made him a (lire) multi-millionaire; so much so that in 1993 he was able to make Maurizio Gucci a loan of 30,000 million lire — a fortune some suspect he amassed thanks to the protection of the Yakuza, the Japanese Mafia, and of the Italian and US secret services.  His Italian defence counsel is Gaetano Pecorella who denies his client had any involvement in the Piazza Fontana carnage. This is the same Pecorella who in the 1970s concentrated on defending leftwing activists before switching in the 1990s to a mixture of clients ranging from Zorzi to Ovidio Bompressi, the former Lotta Continua member sentenced to 22 years for the murder of Inspector Luigi Calabresi.

“I was in Naples attending the oriental university, in which I enrolled in 1968”, Zorzi stated apropos of 12 December 1969 in an interview carried by Il Giornale on 14 November 1995. That alibi has yet to be confirmed.

Another name, another fugitive. At the time he was being questioned by Judge Salvini, Digilio already had one ten year sentenced passed against him in his absence. In 1983 while a clerk at the Venice firing range, Digilio had been arrested for unlawful possession of ammunition. Although he had been freed after a few days, he realised other more serious charges could follow so he fled to an isolated house in Villa d’Adda in Bergamo province, moving on to Santo Domingo in 1985, on forged papers. He was arrested by Interpol in the autumn of 1992 and returned to Italy to serve his sentence: for resurrecting Ordine Nuovo, possession of detonators, dealing in weapons, possession of machinery for repairing and converting weapons and for forging documents.

Then we have the most famous fugitive of all: Delle Chiaie, known in Rome as “il caccola” (“the little man”) before he was re-dubbed “the black primrose”. During questioning at the Palace of Justice in Rome, he asked to use the toilet and vanished. That was on 9 July 1970.

Even though he was seen in the capital for several months thereafter the police never managed to recapture him.

After the failure of the coup, Delle Chiaie moved to Madrid where he could count on protection from the leading lights of Francoism, but in February 1977, by which time the Franco regime was no more, Delle Chiaie moved to the greater safety of Latin America.

On his return to Italy he refused to discuss this, even though Giorgio Pisanò, publisher of the fascist weekly Il Candido, sent him a clear message through his newspaper column. In an open letter published on 9 January 1975, Pisanò wrote: “Stay where you are and keep silent. If you return there are many things you need to explain: the arms dealing; the disappearance of funds entrusted to your care, your connections with Mario Merlino, or indeed your dealings with the Ministry of the Interior’s Confidential Affairs Bureau.” Delle Chiaie kept on the run — through Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Chile.

He adopted a new identity, calling himself Alfredo Di Stefano, but in 1987 he was arrested in Caracas and his 17 years as a fugitive from justice was brought to an end.

An international warrant had been issued for his arrest. On what charges? The Italicus bombing, theft, conspiracy to subvert, aiding and abetting the Piazza Fontana massacre, membership of an armed gang. He went on trial in October 1987 with Massimiliano Fachini before the Court of Assizes in Catanzaro (the last trials relating to the Piazza Fontana incident). On 20 February 1989, both men were cleared on all counts after 90 court sittings, a finding that was confirmed on appeal on 5 July 1991.

Catanzaro Trial


Pino Rauti (Founder of Ordine Nuevo) - click for more information

THE FACT THAT from the mid-1960 onwards fascists and Nazis stepped up their efforts to obtain arms and explosives was no casual matter.  The strategy of tension theory was being elaborated— and elaborated openly. In Rome from 3 to 5 April 1965 leading exponents of the right gathered in the Parco dei Principi hotel for a symposium on “Revolutionary Warfare”, organised by the Alberto Pollio Institute of Military History.

Prominent figures who attended included Ordine Nuovo founder, Pino Rauti; Guido Giannettini, journalist and SID agent; and Edgardo Beltrametti and Enrico De Boccard, two journalists who went on to set up the Nuclei di Difesa dello Stato (State Defence Nuclei). Twenty or so students had also been invited. Among these were two whose names would crop up over and over again throughout those years: Stefano Delle Chiaie (the head of Avanguardia Nazionale) and his pupil, Mario Merlino. [See La Storia Siamo Noi – L’inchiesta su Ordine Nuovo – Piazza Fontana]

Guido Giannettini with Franco Freda (at the Catanzaro Piazza Fontana bomb trial)

While Rauti and Giannettini’s contributions drew applause, it was the university lecturer and Orientalist, Pio Filippani Ronconi, a cryptographer with the Defence Ministry and the SID who electrified the audience. The papers read at the symposium were published later that year as La guerra rivoluzionaria by the Gioacchino Volpe publishing house. The book enjoyed what was essentially a “militant” readership among the various far right groups. For instance, Paolo Molin from took a copy to show to Ordine Nuovo activists in Venice, including the members of the cell run by Delfo Zorzi.

Pio Filippani Ronconi

The topic of the Parco dei Principe symposium was the appropriate short-term strategy to be adopted in the face of perceived communist advances and to keep Italy within the western orbit. In his paper “Hypothesis for a Revolution”, Filippani Ronconi suggested a security organisation structured on various levels — operational as well as hierarchical. The grassroots would be professionals — teachers and small industrialists — people capable of carrying out only wholly passive and non-risky activities, but the sort of people in a position to boycott communist promoted initiatives.

The next level consisted of people capable of “bringing pressure to bear” through lawful demonstrations: these were people who would rally to the defence of the State and of the laws.

At the third, more skilled and professionally specialised level” Filippani Ronconi argued, “would be the very select and hand-picked units (set up anonymously and immediately) trained to carry out counter-terror and possible ‘upsets’ at times of crisis to bring about a different realignment of forces in power. These units, each unknown to each other, but coordinated by a leadership committee, could be recruited, partly, from among those youngsters who were currently squandering their energies to no effect in noble demonstrative ventures.”

With regard to the senior level of the organisation, Ronconi added: “A Council should be established above these levels on a ‘vertical’ basis to coordinate activities as part of an all-out war against subversion by communists and their allies. These represent the nightmare which looms over the modern world and prevents its natural development.”

Texts on the threat of communism were nothing new, but here was something that was qualitatively new — and it was not just a theoretical essay. The organisation outlined by Filippani Ronconi was already being set up and would shortly become operational.

In 1966 2,000 or so army officers received a leaflet through the post from the Nuclei di Difesa dello Stato. Its authors aimed to play on the servicemen’s pride: “Officers! The perilous state of Italian politics demands your decisive intervention. The task of eliminating the infection before it becomes deadly is one for the Armed Forces. There is no time to lose: delay and inertia represents cowardice. To suffer the vulgar rabble who would govern us would be tantamount to kowtowing to subversion and a betrayal of the State. Loyal servicemen of considerable prestige have already formed the Nuclei di Difesa dello Stato within the Armed Forces. You too should join the NDS. Either you join the victorious struggle against subversion or subversion will raise its gallows for you. In which case it will be the just deserts of traitors.”

Nuclei di Difesa dello Stato

The authors and distributors of this leaflet were Franco Freda and Giovanni Ventura, two of the main protagonists of the outrages.

Another individual of some note in this tale appeared on the scene at this time: Guido Lorenzon who was an officer on the establishment of the base in Aviano at the time and who was among those who received the leaflet. He mentioned it to his friend Ventura and — surprise, surprise — Ventura admitted that he was one of the authors of the document. He would eventually be convicted with Freda in 1987 of incitement to crime.

Gladio emblem

Along with the Freda and Ventura, someone else was working to set up the Nuclei di Difesa dello Stato network — which shadowed the better known, but more dangerous ‘stay-behind’ secret army organisation, Gladio.

After a refresher course with the Third Army Corps in Milan in the autumn and winter of 1966-1967, Major (now colonel) Amos Spiazzi, in charge of the army’s I (Intelligence) Bureau in Verona was tasked by his superiors “individually and by word of mouth” to shadow Gladio’s structure in his home city. As Spiazza told Guido Salvini on 2 June 1994: “I was also informed that, on a region by region basis and province by province, personnel with similar characteristics needed to be recruited, in units as water-tight as possible and trained in three man teams […] using the services of instructors from the local units […] These Nuclei adopted the designation of Legions […]. In this way I set up the Fifth Legion with 50 hand-picked people “.

Spiazza, who had been front-page news in 1974 over his involvement with the Rosa dei Venti subversive network, continued: “At meetings […] there was pressure for ever closer collaboration with the Corps, with existing political associations such as the Friends of the Armed Forces, the Pollio Institute, Combattentismo attivo, in order to bind our efforts into active endeavour to defend, support and make propaganda on behalf of the Armed Forces and the values for which they stand.”

Spiazzi’s involvement was not limited to training: he organised conferences and debates, contributed to the journal of General Francesco Nardella‘s Movimento di Opinione Publica (Nardello was a member of Licio Gelli’s P2) and was in touch with Adamo Degli Occhi, a Milan lawyer who led the demonstrations of the alleged Maggioranza Silenziosa (Silent Majority), and with Junio Valerio Borghese’s National Front (Borghese had been commander of the Decima MAS and had defected to the Salò Republic in 1943).

He stated: “Every single thing I did outside the service within the context of these activities was known to my I Bureau superiors.”

From the Veneto region to Lombardy, and, more precisely, to the Valtellina, Carlo Fumagalli was a mythic figure as far as his men were concerned.  As a commander during the resistance, he had headed a non-aligned unit, I Gufi, made up of “white” partisans. His group had worked closely with the American wartime clandestine service, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, later the CIA), for which he received the Bronze Star at the end of the war. Fumagelli maintained his links with the American intelligence services and at the end of the 1960s he was ready to help influence the Italian political system towards a presidential structure with an even more emphatically pro-NATO stance.

Fumagalli had set up the Movimento di Azione Rivoluzionaria (MAR) and to provide cover for its illegal activities, he ran a garage, which specialised in off-the-road vehicles and associated activities. He wholeheartedly adopted the strategy of provocation through attacks intended to be blamed on the left, but the coup d’état for which he yearned had none of the pro-Nazi connotations of his “allies”. Not that this stopped him from mounting spectacular operations.

A fire started in the Pirelli-Bicocca tarpaulin depot in the Viale Sarca took ten hours to burn out. The damage was estimated at a thousand million lire at the time. During the fire a 30-year-old worker, Gianfranco Carminati, lost his life. Years later Gaetano Orlando, the man regarded as the MAR’s ideologue admitted: “The MAR group’s plan was that the attack should be put down to the Red Brigades which were on the rise at the time”.

I remember the Pirelli attacks at the beginning of 1971 and can confirm that our organisation had nothing to do with big fire at the Pirelli-Bicocca tarpaulin depot” was the claim made on 23 July 1991 by Roberto Franceschini, the then leader of the Red Brigades in Milan, who has since severed all ties with terrorism.

Exactly one month earlier, on 7 December 1970, a number of armed columns led by Prince Borghese from the Fronte Nazionale entered Rome. Among the main financial backers of the operation were Remo Orlandi, a Rome builder and Borghese’s right hand man, and Attilio Lercari, from Genoa, the administrator with Piaggio. The objective was to seize the main political headquarters, the RAI TV station and the airport, while Stefano Delle Chiaie’s men (Avanguardia Nazionale [AN] — personnel) were to seize control of the operations centre at the Interior Ministry.  The ministry would be handed over to the carabinieri while the AN people rounded up political opponents for internment on the Aeolian Islands. Ships provided by Genoa shipping magnate Cameli were on stand-by to transport them.

It was a classic coup d’état. But something went awry, or somebody backed out. After a frantic round of phone calls the would-be coup-makers pulled out of Rome.  Roberto Palotto and Saverio Ghiacci who, with other Avanguardia Nazionale militants, had succeeded in getting inside the Interior Ministry (with the help of Salvatore Drago, the duty physician at the ministry and P2 member), had to evacuate the building at speed. But the coup attempt was not confined to the capital.

The Major told us to wear civilian clothes and maintain a state of readiness”, remembered Enzo Ferro one of Spiazza’s junior officers doing his army service in the Montorio barracks in Verona in December 1970. “We were due to be brought to the Porta Bra district in Verona, to the premises of the Associazione mutilati e invalidi di guerra, where the Movimento di Opinione Pubblica bulletin was published. […] We were told that we were to step in and could not back out and that, on reaching the muster-point, we would be armed and taken into the area where we would be providing back up for the coup d’état. Every civilian and military cell would be involved. But Major Spiazzi told us in person around 1.30am that orders standing-down the operation had been received from Milan.”

In Venice too […] on the night of 7 December, arrangements had been made for people to muster at specific points. Muster they did, but shortly after that the stand-down orders arrived, much to the disappointment of all those present […] The rendezvous point was the Naval Dockyard — that is the area outside the Naval Command. In connection with these initiatives I reported regularly to Verona (to the FTASE NATO Intelligence Service), which I then briefed on various developments” explained Carlo Digilio, who was linked with the Venice Ordine Nuovo group and had been a CIA asset since 1967. The agent to whom Digilio reported was Sergio Minetto, head of the CIA network in the Triveneto area. Minetto, of course, denied his part in the affair. The FTASE to which Digilio alludes was the general command of the Atlantic Alliance in Southern Europe.

In Reggio Calabria,” recalled Carmine Dominici, a member of Avanguardia Nazionale — led in that city by the Marchese Felice Genoese Zerbi — “we were all mobilised and ready to do our bit. Zerbi said he had been given carabinieri uniforms and that we would be going on patrol with them, also in connection with the drive to arrest political opponents named on certain lists which had been drawn up. We remained in a state of readiness almost until 2.00 am. but then we were all told to go home.”

Other evidence, again collected by Judge Salvini, revealed that in many places around Italy, servicemen, civilians and carabinieri were on stand-by to act in support of the coup d’état in Rome.

The man who called a halt to the operation was in fact its mastermind, Licio Gelli who was also to have supervised the kidnapping of Giuseppe Saragat, Italy’s president. Gelli was later to exploit the involvement in the coup of a number of high-ranking officers for his own blackmail purposes and long-term intrigues.

[NB – Borghese’s plot was closely modelled on the 1964 Plan Solo coup — which was to conclude with the assasination of prime minister Aldo Moro — planned by carabinieri general Giovanni De Lorenzo]

But the verdicts handed down in November 1978, November 1984 and finally by the Court of Cassation in March 1986 cleared the conspirators of all charges. As for Gelli and the conspiratorial activity of the members of lodge P2 over many years, a definitive ruling from the Court of Cassation on 21 November 1996 found that Gelli should be sentenced to — but not serve— 8 years, solely for the offence of procuring sensitive intelligence, thereby closing the case begun in 1981, when the Guardia di Finanza discovered a list of 962 names of P2 lodge members in Gelli’s home, the Villa Wanda, in Castiglion Fibocchi.

That investigation had been taken from Milan magistrates Gherardo Colombo and Giuliano Turone and transferred to Rome.  The prosecutors in the capital had done their duty and stymied the investigation.

The Night of the Republic


Delfo Zorzi (head of Ordine Nuevo in Mestre)

Mestre, June 1968. Early that month a rash of fly-posted bills appeared singing the praises of Mao Tse Tung. Car-owners found their vehicles daubed with slogans extolling the leadership of the Chinese chairman. An act of daring by Venetian Maoists? No. The perpetrators were three young activists from the city’s neo-Nazi Ordine Nuovo group: Delfo Zorzi, Paolo Molin and Martino Siciliano. Siciliano was the one who confessed to the provocations on 6 October 1995 to M Guido Salvini, the Milan magistrate who investigated the Piazza Fontana outrage from 1989 to 1997: ‘we did the graffiti on vehicles parked in the area in order to annoy the residents and take the provocation as far as it would go.’

On 15 May 1969, seven members of the fascist group Giovane Italia were arrested in Palermo charged with attacks that had taken place between April and the day before their arrest. They had attacked the Regina Pacis church, the carabinieri stations in Castellammare and Pretoris, the recruit training barracks and Ucciardone prison. In Legnano, on 15 September 1969, 26-year-old Ettore Alzati, a travelling salesman, and 19-year-old Ermanno Carensuola, a haulage firm employee, were arrested. They confessed to throwing a petrol bomb at the entrance to a club where an Avanti! festival was taking place. But the arson attempt failed as the bottle smashed without exploding. They then tried to set fire to posters advertising the event, but with the same disappointing outcome. Before leaving, and now weaponless apart from some paint, they daubed a huge circled A on a wall.

They stood outside the Club Turati and daubed ‘Long live Mao’ on the wall. Alzati and Carensuola were rightwing extremists, members of the Legnano branch of the MSI.

Three instances from among so many that prompt the question: what was happening? Had even fascists and Nazis been touched by the events of May 1968 in France? What were the origins of these strange groups who described themselves as Nazi-Maoists? Why were rightwing extremists mounting attacks and trying to blame the anarchists? Was this spontaneity or part of some plan?

Croce Nera Anarchica members in Milan, Giuseppe Pinelli for one, favoured the latter explanation. In the first issue of the Anarchist Black Cross Bulletin, published in June 1969, they wrote apropos of the Palermo incidents: ‘Emotionally disturbed though the neo-fascists may be, we are not so naive as to believe in seven of them going ga-ga at the same time. Plainly, their actions were part of some plan.’

The bulletin’s editors explored their hypothesis: ‘For fascists to strike at “anarchist” targets is explicable only if the objective is 1) to whip up a panic about subversive attacks in order to justify a police crackdown and a tightening-up by the authorities, 2) to bring anarchists (and, by extension, the Left) into disrepute.

It is an essential part of the first of these purposes and would suit the second, that some innocent person be injured or, better still (if more dangerously) killed.’  The article ended with a prophecy. ‘What has happened in Palermo bears out what we said immediately after the 25 April attacks in Milan (at the Fair and the railway station): the attackers do not come from our ranks. And the police’s insistence in arresting and detaining anarchists gives rise to grave suspicions.’

After the train bombings on 9 August, the Croce Nera bulletin (No 2, August 1969), stated: ‘Where there is an authoritarian regime in place, in the lead-up to the advent of some important statesman, special checks are carried out and hotheads, subversives and anarchists are detained by the police, some to help with inquiries, some on criminal charges: all as a precautionary measure. So, in this ghastly year of 1969, we wonder: what on earth is going on in Italy?’

The bombs on 12 December 1969 answered that question.

The Croce Nera bulletin editors had an inkling that something was afoot but obviously were not yet in possession of all the facts. For instance, they were not to know that the ‘Chinese manifestos’ operation and the other terrorist operations mounted by fascists which purported to be the work of anarchists or Maoists, represented the prologue to the ‘strategy of tension’.

Federico Umberto D’Amato: strategist of tension — the puppetmaster

They had no way of knowing that the idea of having posters printed up by the tens of thousands and distributed for sticking up by Nazi-fascist groups originated with Federico Umberto D’Amato, head of the Confidential Affairs Bureau of the Interior Ministry (Ufficio Affari Riservati). The details of that strategy had also been worked out in the document Our Political Action, seized by rebel soldiers from the premises of Aginter Press in Lisbon in 1974 during the revolution.

Aginter Press was a rightwing terrorist organisation run by Ralph Guerin Serac (an alias of Yves Félix Marie Guillou, born in France in 1926) and was one of the mainstays of international fascist subversive activity.

The document stated that in addition to infiltrating pro-Chinese groups, propaganda operations should also be mounted that appear to emanate from their political adversaries — all for the purpose of adding to the climate of instability and creating a chaotic situation.

Vincenzo Vinciguerra (former member of Avanguardia Nazionale and Ordine Nuevo. He is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of three policemen)

The Croce Nera people did not know at the time that the provocations and false trails were being overseen personally by D’Amato (holder of masonic membership card No 1643 in lodge P2). This only emerged later following statements to Judge Guido Salvini by Vincenzo Vinciguerra (the person responsible — with Carlo Cicuttini — for the Peteano attack on 31 May 1972 in which three carabinieri were killed and one wounded), a member of both Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale. Vinciguerra, a self-described ‘revolutionary Nazi’, had dissociated himself from his former comrades on the grounds that they were being manipulated by the secret services.

Throughout 1969 the fascists persisted in carrying out attacks or spectacular actions and portraying them as the work of anarchists or leftwing extremists. The practice was to continue for years.

One more example. On the night of 15 October 1971 a bomb exploded outside Milan’s Catholic University in Gemelli Square, causing some exterior damage to the building. Who was behind it? As Martino Siciliano explained to Judge Salvini on 18 October 1994: “It was a spur-of-the-moment thing after a dinner in Marco Foscari’s house at 19 Via Piceno in Milan. Those present were Foscari and his wife, Gianluigi Radice and his wife, Giambattista Cannata aka Tanino, and myself.”

Siciliano arrived from Mestre with a mortar shell with no detonator. After dinner, the group decided to mount an attack that would be blamed on far left groups. Siciliano prepared the bomb using material Fornari had in the house: a detonator, firing powder and a fuse.  He packed the space where the fuse should have been with firing powder, and then fitted the detonator and fuse.

With the technical business over, the group discussed targeting. They decided on the Catholic University as they had the student card stolen from a left-wing student they had mugged at the university in the Piazza Gemelli.

Cannata went with Siciliani in the former’s Fiat 500 while the others stayed behind with the women. The idea was to leave the student card near the site of the explosion, but unfortunately they had forgotten to bring it with them. No matter; the fuse was lit and the device left near the railings as the pair hot-footed it back to the car and fled the scene.  But without the leftist student’s card the action did not have the desired effect. To confuse matters further, there was another bomb attack on the Communist Party’s premises around the same time. As Angelo Angeli was to complain later, in a letter to Giancarlo Esposti (both neo-Nazis) the two incidents were effectively linked in the newspaper reports.

But the neo-Nazi groups did not only mount operations posing as leftists. They had been training for insurgency and attacks on leftwing party premises and leftist militants well before 1969.  Training and ideological indoctrination took place at paramilitary training camps around the country where arms and explosives were collected and stored. It was in one of these camps in Pian del Rascino that Esposti met his death in 1974.

Early in 1965, Siciliano, Piercarlo Montagner and Zorzi were in the car of Triveneto area Ordine Nuovo leader, Carlo Maria Maggi, bound for a marble quarry near Arzignano del Chiampo in Vicenza province, an area well known to Zorzi who had been born there.  They broke into the explosives store and stole nearly 40 kilos of ammonal, detonators and other explosives and slow-burning fuses. It was a major haul, one that was too big to fit all the material into the car, so they hid part of it — well away from the quarry. They then returned to Mestre while Zorzi set about hiding their booty.

A few days later they were back in Arzignano. This time they travelled as far as Vicenza by train, then by Pullman to Arzignano. They hid the explosives and fuses under their coats and made their way back to Venice.

Ordine Nuovo’s Venetian militants grew increasingly active throughout 1969. They trained regularly in the use of gelignite.  The bomb that exploded in Milan on 12 December consisted of a kilo and a half of gelignite.

Zorzi had procured the dark red sticks of explosives through Carlo Digilio who had been sold them by Roberto Rotelli, a Venetian smuggler who specialised in salvaging valuables from shipwrecks. “Rotelli told me he meant to sell the explosives, for which he had paid about 5 million (lire) of the proceeds of his cigarette smuggling. Rotelli came up with Zorzi’s name as a potential buyer and I replied that he seemed to fit the bill”, Digilio told Judge Salvini on 13 January 1996. Ane he added: “Zorzi was very concerned that the purchase should be kept a secret and I reassured him that none of us had anything to gain by talking about it.”

Trieste 3-4 October 1969. Within a few days of this date, Italian president Giuseppe Saragat was due to pay a state visit to Yugoslav president Tito. Zorzi, Siciliano and Giancarlo Vianello met in the Piazzale Roma in Venice where they collected Maggi’s large car from the garage. In the boot were two metal containers each filled with gelignite and attached pre-set timing devices. All that remained was to connect them up to the battery.

The whole operation had been prepared by Digilio, also known to the trio as Otto, a former legionnaire apparently well versed in the use of weapons and explosives. But, unknown to the young Ordine Nuovo members, Digilio had another nickname  — Erodoto (Herodotus). This was his CIA agent code name in the Venice region. It was a name he had inherited when his father Michelangelo — also a man with US intelligence services connections — died in 1967. Zorzi’s team set off for Trieste. Their first target was the Slovene School in the Rione San Giovanni. They planted the first bomb on a widow-sill after connecting up the battery and scattering anti-Slav leaflets. They then headed on to Gorizia and target number two. But forty minutes passed and they heard no boom.  Forensics was to establish that the battery was completely flat: ‘Evidently somebody had had other plans for the operation, because a mistake of that sort strikes me as impossible”, was Siciliano’s comment to Judge Salvini on 18 October 1994.

It was daylight by the time they reached Gorizia. They waited for darkness to fall, then placed their bomb and leaflets by the pillar at the front of the old railway station.  Then it was off to Venice. But the outcome was the same as before: the bomb was discovered, unexploded.

Giancarlo Rognoni: head of Ordine Nuovo's Phoenix Group

This prompted Giancarlo Rognoni — head of Ordine Nuovo in Milan, the La Fenice (Phoenix) Group, to restore the honour of his Venetian comrades and on 27 April 1974 two La Fenice militants blew up the Slovene School.

Fascists and neo-Nazis continued with their outrages for years, virtually right up until the end of the 1980s. Some have left a lasting impression in our collective memories — the Piazza della Loggia bombing in Brescia, the Italicus train bombing in 1974 and the bombing of Bologna railway station in 1980 to name only the most famous of them. But there were others that did not make it into the papers, even though they were important.

Take, for example the Calabrian town of Gioia Tauro, on 22 July 1970, when a TNT charge tore up part of the track outside that town. Six passengers were killed and another 54 injured. Investigators initially indicted four railway workers for culpable homicide, but this was no accident that could be put down to carelessness or negligence. It was an outrage that would be followed by further outrages against Calabrian trains.

According to evidence given in 1993, the perpetrators were allegedly Vito Silverini and Vincenzo Caracciolo (who died in 1987 and 1990 respectively). Apparently they had been paid to commit the outrage by the leaders of the Comitato d’azione per Reggio Capoluogo (‘Make Reggio the Capital Action Committee’), effectively a Calabrian fascist pressure group.

26-27 September 1970: five anarchists die in mysterious circumstance

Two Calabrian anarchists, Angelo Casile and Giovanni Aricò carried out a counter-investigation into this outrage and both men were killed on the night of 26-27 September 1970 — along with three other anarchists — when they skidded into a truck that had braked suddenly on the road from Reggio to Rome. Leftwing counter-investigators published some nonsense about the dynamics behind this incident. One thing they did say was that it was a calculated rightwing murder and it was no coincidence that the crash had taken place on to a stretch of road (about 60 kilometres from Rome) close to one of the estates of Prince Junio Valerio Borghese.

Prince Junio Valerio Borghese (ex-Decima MAS commander and a key figure in the Italian neo-fascist movement). In December 1970 he led a CIA-sponsored coup d'etat (with James Jesus Angleton) against the government of Giuseppe Saragat.

Prince Junio Valerio Borghese (ex-Decima MAS commander and a key figure in the Italian neo-fascist revival). In December 1970 he led a CIA-sponsored coup d'etat (with James Jesus Angleton) against the government of Giuseppe Saragat.

However, on 26 March 1994, Aricò’s cousin, Antonio Perna, presented himself before Judge Salvini and gave a statement that the day before he set off for Rome, Aricò had confided in him that he had taken considerable important documentary evidence about the Gioia Tauro attack to Veraldo Rossi (known as Aldo), a member of the FAI in Rome and editor of the weekly anarchist paper Umanità Nova. Perna claimed that when Aricò set off he had that documentary evidence with him, but no trace of it was found at the scene of the accident, nor were the address books of the five victims ever returned to their families. Furthermore, Angelo Casile, one of the dead youths, had been interrogated that summer by Judge Vittorio Occorsio (investigating the bombings of 12 December 1969) and he had given a deposition that he had seen Giuseppe Schirinzi, an Avanguardia Nazionale member in Reggio Calabria, in Rome immediately after the cenotaph bombing and that in the heat of the moment he had accused him of being the perpetrator of the attack.

On 7 December 1969, only days before Casile ran into him in Rome, Schirinzi was convicted (with Aldo Pardo) for the attack on police headquarters in Reggio Calabria. But Schirinzi was no bomb-maker; he was a prominent member of Avanguardia Nazionale. In April 1968 it was he who went with Mario Merlino (the provocateur who helped Valpreda launch the Circolo 22 Marzo in Rome) on the crucial trip to the colonels’ Greece. He had also tried to ingratiate himself into the Reggio Calabria anarchists’ circle — known, ironically, as the 22 March Circle — in the summer of 1969.

Circolo 22 Marzo: original members


Mourners, Piazza Duomo, December 15, 1969

THE PIAZZA DUOMO was packed. The trade unions had supported this rally. Thousands of Milanese huddled in the cathedral square. The Duomo was overflowing with people. The archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Giovanni Colombo, officiated at the funerals of the 14 victims. Prime minister Mariano Rumor represented the State, while mayor Aldo Aniasi represented the city. Absent from the Piazza del Duomo on the morning of 15 December was a figure of some importance in this affair — not only important but crucial: the unwilling protagonist, Pietro Valpreda.

Pietro Valpreda

Valpreda was a 36 year old Milanese anarchist who, in his younger days, had lived in the Via Civitale in the San Siro district, a few hundred metres from the first marital home of Pinelli and his wife Licia Rognoni. Valpreda lived the typical life of a suburban kid. He had a couple of convictions: in 1956 he had been sentenced to four years in prison by the Milan court of assizes for armed robbery and a second conviction, for smuggling, dating from 1958.

He began taking an interest in political and social issues after his release and devoted himself to reading the works of anarchist thinkers: Mikhail Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, Errico Malatesta. He also studied modern dance and toured with a few cabaret acts. He had also had the occasional television booking.

In the early 1960s poor circulation forced him to undergo an operation on his legs His involvement with the Milan groups was fitful, but when he was in Milan he usually sought out the anarchists from the Circolo Sacco e Vanzetti at 1, Viale Murillo near the Piazzale Brescia. From May 1968 onwards, he began calling in at the Circolo Ponte della Ghisolfa, the Milanese anarchists’ new premises.

Pietro Valpreda

Valpreda was of average height, agile, ever ready with a witticism spoken in a typical Milanese accent with its slightly rolled ‘r’. Early in 1969, he moved to Rome where he began to frequent the Circolo Bakunin, groups affiliated to the FAI (Italian Anarchist Federation). After falling out with them, he broke away, with Mario Merlino, Roberto Mander, Emilio Borghese, Roberto Gargamelli and Enrico Di Cola to set up the Circolo 22 Marzo at 22, Via del Governo Vecchio. By now his theatre work had dried up and he was to all intents unemployed, so he joined with Ivo Della Savia (who was replaced by Giorgio Spano when Della Savia left the country in mid-October) to open a retail workshop in the Via del Boschetto where he made liberty lamps, jewellery and necklaces. Among the materials he used were coloured glass settings. Curiously, one very similar to them turned up in the bag containing the bomb at the Banca Commerciale. Valpreda had also been in Milan from 7 to 12 December, having left Rome the previous evening to answer a summons from judge Antonio Amati.

Pietro Valpreda

At eight o’clock on 15 December, Valpreda, accompanied by his grandmother Olimpia Torri, went to the chambers of his lawyer Luigi Mariani at 39 Via San Barbara. He was due to report to Amati, the investigating magistrate handling inquiries into the 25 April bomb attacks at the Fair and at Milan’s Central Station. Amati considered himself an expert on anarchists and attentats. Shortly after the Piazza Fontana explosion, he ‘knew’ immediately that it had been a bomb and that that nobody but anarchists could have planted it — and said as much in a telephone call to the investigating officers at Milan police headquarters.

Valpreda made his way to the Palace of Justice with Mariani and Luca Boneschi, another of his lawyers. The two lawyers left him there, arranging to meet after the questioning. Valpreda left his grandmother to wait for him and knocked on the door of Amati’s chambers. This was at 10.35 am. In he went to be greeted by the judge with an exclamation of: “Ah, there you are!” “Yes, I was in Rome so couldn’t come any earlier. You know, I’m a dancer and actor and I have to move around for reasons of work”, Valpreda replied.

Judge Amati cut him off with a flurry of questions: “But who are you anarchists? What do you want? Why this great fondness of yours for blood?” This exchange (real or imagined?) took place in the judge’s chambers, but somebody got wind of it and it was to turn up in the columns of the following day’s Corriere della Sera.

It was Giorgio Zicari, a very particular brand of reporter. At the time, in 1969, he was a secret service informant, but he was not so much an inform-ant as an inform-ee, someone through whom the secret services funnelled news or — rather — confidential whispers.

It was then then minister of Defence, Giulio Andreotti, who lifted the veil on Zicari’s role. In an interview with journalist and erstwhile secretary of PCI leader Palmiro Togliatti Massimo Caprara, published in the weekly Il Mondo on 20 June 1974, Andreotti admitted that Zicari was ‘an unpaid informant for the SID’ and that later he ‘shifted across to the Confidential Affairs Bureau of Public Security.’ (Ufficio Affari Riservati)

Zicari had been in the right place at the right time — as he would be on many subsequent occasions: he had apparently exclusive access to confidential information from police headquarters and the courts.

From his privileged vantage-point, Zicari watched as Valpreda left after being interrogated by Amati at 11.30 am. He watched as Valpreda was led away by two police officers who held him, forcibly, under the arms and took him to a side-room of the court where he was handcuffed and taken to police headquarters.

Valpreda’s grandmother, Olimpia could not understand what was going on. She called out to ‘my Pietro’ but the policemen marched him off to the Via Fatebenefratelli where, after a brief interrogation, he was left on his own in a room. He was then taken to Rome’s police headquarters in the Via San Vitale there where Umberto Improta, a Special Branch inspector (who later went on to become police chief of Milan) was waiting for him, Alfonso Noce, another police officer, police brigadieri Remo Marcelli and Vincenzo Santilli who took the first official statement at 3.30 am. on 16 December.

Prior to that, however, between 2.00 and 3.00 am., Valpreda had gone with the officers to a field adjacent to the Via Tiburtina to search for an explosives dump, but nothing was found.

Valpreda allegedly made the following statement: “As we were going down the Via Tiburtina, before leaving for Rome that last time, we were just about level with the Siderurgia Romana foundry and the Decama works, about two or three hundred metres from the Silver cinema […] when Ivo Della Savia, pointed out a clump of bushes and said : ‘ I have some gear stashed there, not too far from the street at the foot of a shrub that is not too tall’” And he added: “He was not specific as to what he was talking about, but we took the reference to ‘gear’ to mean explosives, detonators and fuses .”

Mario Merlino (then and more recently)

Why did Valpreda make that admission? Simple. Mario Merlino had been the first of the 22 March group to be questioned by the Rome police, but as a witness not as a suspect.

At 1.45 pm. on 13 December Merlino made a statement to this effect: “Concerning the bombings […] I am in a position to state that my friends Emilio Borghese, Roberto Mander and Giorgio Spano spoke to me on separate occasions of the existence in Rome of their cache of weapons and explosives […] Nearly six weeks ago, at the premises of the Circolo Bakunin in the Via  Baccina Spano, talked about attacks in general and told me he had knowledge of facts and details concerning the attacks mounted in Rome …”

When questioned, again as a witness, Merlino (who would later be indicted with Valpreda and the other anarchists from the 22 March Group) said other things that were to condemn his comrades.

He declared: “On 28 November, on the occasion of the national ironworkers’ rally in the Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, at about 11.00 am., while the  students  who later joined the workers’ march were assembling, Roberto Mander told me he needed explosives as the political situation was developing so quickly and it was time to act. Furthermore, on the 10th or 11th of this month, at around 8,00 pm., in the Via Cavour, after I had mentioned a few things that I had been told by Emilio Borghese, Roberto told me that they did indeed have a dump on the Via Casilina.” A moveable dump, then, that had moved from the Via Tiburtina to the Via Casilina.  Having more to do with bragadaccio than with dynamiting activity, perhaps, Merlino continued: “One or two evenings prior to the encounter with Mander […] at the premises of the anarchist Circolo 22 Marzo, Emilio Borghese told me he had a cache of explosives, detonators and arms in the Via Casilina.  He specifically stated that he had […] a substantial amount of detonators and a smaller quantity of explosives […] I remember he went on to say that he had gone to the dump several days previously in the company of Roberto Mander and Pietro Valpreda, in the latter’s car, and had removed or left […] a quantity of explosives.”

Here is the first contradiction. If Mander had ready access to the famous dump, why did he need explosives? And why had he turned to Mario Merlino? It is a mystery, one that Mander himself, a 17 year old high-school student, the son of an orchestra leader, tried to dispel in a 15 December interview with the police: “On 28 November, the day of the foundry workers’ strike,  I mentioned to Merlino the possibility of bombs being set off to create incidents. That is to say, we discussed if it might help the foundry workers in the event of clashes with the police.

The following week Merlino asked me if it was true that I and Valpreda had an explosives dump in the Via Casilina. I asked Merlino to check where these rumours originated. On that occasion I asked him if there was any chance of his getting hold of explosives for the purposes of carrying out some sort of symbolic action. Over the next few days I put the same request about explosives to Borghese who had told me he did not have any to hand.”

Mander then stated: “I ought to stipulate that when I visited the Via Tiburtina with Ivo Della Savia, where I had been told there was a dump of materials — fuses and detonators I seem to recall —  there were no explosives.”

In a later statement, Mander added: “I believe Valpreda is more an expert in the handling of explosives than I am. For years he has been active in anarchist groups — and he was also implicated in the Milan Fair attacks.  I believe he was involved in other attacks as well.”

The Circolo 22 Marzo members then began pointing the finger at each other. Merlino insisted: “Let me add that today at police headquarters, after I said that the detective had queried the existence of an anarchist explosives cache in the Via Casilina, Mander replied: ‘They know about that then?’ […] Borghese also told me that he had access to other explosives but I don’t know where they were kept.”

Roberto Gargamelli, the 20 year old son of a Banca Nazionale del Lavoro official, refused to be sucked into this police-orchestrated game and at 5.00 am. on 15 December made the following statement:

“During meetings with Valpreda, whether singly or with other comrades, I never heard him speak of explosives. I mean that I never heard Valpreda, Mander or Borghese mention acquiring explosives, nor did I ever hear talk of there being an explosives dump or arsenal in the Via Casilina or the Via Tiburtina where Mander or Borghese supposedly had a cache of such material.”

Mario Merlino posing as an anarchist (1969)

But who was this Merlino character who was so determined to throw suspicion on to his comrades? He was a 25 year-old philosophy graduate, son of a Vatican employee (employed by the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith department).  In 1962, at the age of 18, Merlino had been active in far right groups, especially Stefano Delle Chiaie’s Avanguardia Nazionale. He also had connections with Pino Rauti, the Ordine Nuovo founder who now leads the Movimento Sociale Fiamma Tricolore and with the MSI deputy Giulio Caradonna.

Caradonna, a prominent hard-line Italian fascist, led the 200-odd Giovane Italia (Young Italy) activists (Mario Merlino among them) in the 17 March 1968 fighting with the leftist students squatting in the Faculty of Letters at La Sapienza university in Rome.

Stefano Delle Chiaie

Stefano Delle Chiaie

In April that year Merlino had gone to Greece on a trip sponsored by the ESESI, the league of Greek fascist students in Italy — organised by Pino Rauti and Stefano Delle Chiaie. On his return, Merlino underwent a political conversion. He adopted the dress of the more radical left, grew a beard and moustache and began frequenting groups from the extra-parliamentary left. He launched the Circolo XXII Marzo, which led to the later Circolo 22 Marzo. He distributed leaflets singing the praises of the student revolt in Paris and carried a black flag emblazoned “XXII MARZO” at a demonstration outside the French embassy. By September 1969 he was a member of the Circolo Bakunin in the Via Baccina, where he made no secret of his fascist past, claiming he was an ex-camerata — as well as being an anarchist sympathiser. Within the Circolo Bakunin he associated with those militants who complained the most about its political line and by the end of October he joined with these to launch the Circolo 22 Marzo.

Merlino remains to this day a figure who defies description. Even after they had been arrested and jailed, Valpreda persisted in defending Merlino, arguing that even a fascist had a right to a change of mind and that the climate created by contestation had shattered many of the certainties of members of the far right.

The fact remains that links with the camerati (fascist network) and above all with Delle Chiaie survived his alleged conversion to anarchism. Thus, when he saw the police had him cornered — when his status switched from witness-informant to suspect-under-investigation — Merlino had only one person to turn to for an alibi for the afternoon of 12 December — Stefano Delle Chiaie, a man who would eventually be indicted for perjury.  So much so that in January 1981, in an interview with the weekly L’Europeo, Merlino acknowledged his debt of gratitude to Delle Chiaie:

“He told the truth and even now, 11 years on, he continues to do so […] But that is not the only reason why I hold him in such high regard. In relation to the Bologna bombing, for example, he was the only one with courage enough to say certain things, to own up to his own responsibilities in regard to terrorism, be it red or black. Unlike certain people, like Rauti or Almirante, who engaged in the splitting of hairs, if not trotting along to police headquarters to hand in the membership lists of Terza Posizione.”

Whereas Valpreda showed solidarity with Merlino, he had misgivings about someone that he could not quite identify:

“There was a spy in our ranks […] The police knew our every move and whatever was said at the Circolo”, Valpreda wrote to his lawyer Boneschi on 27 November 1969.

His intuition was correct, but Valpreda did not yet know the identity of the spy who so diligently briefed the police on everything being done by the young anarchists from the ‘22 Marzo’.

Who was it? It was “comrade Andrea”. That was the name by which the anarchists from the Via Governo Vecchio knew him. His real name was Salvatore Ippolito, he was a public security agent given the task of infiltrating the Roman anarchists. Two people — Merlino and Ippolito — therefore were monitoring the tiny group. The former reporting to Delle Chiaie, the latter to his superior officer at police headquarters, commissario Domenico Spinella.

Cornelio Rolandi (the taxi driver who identified Valpreda)

Cornelio Rolandi (the taxi driver who identified Valpreda)

But the ace up the police’s sleeve was neither of them. It was “super-witness” Cornelio Rolandi, a Milan taxi-driver. Rolandi approached the carabinieri and then the police to make a statement. He claimed to have driven the man who planted the bomb in the Piazza Fontana.

Rolandi was taken to Rome, where he arrived at 5.00 pm. on 16 December, and an identification parade was hastily organised. Valpreda was lined up with four policemen (Vincenzo Graziano, Marcello Pucci, Antonino Serrao and Giuseppe Rizzitello). Also present were: Rome prosecutor Vittorio Occorsio (who was to perish on 10 July 1976 at the hands of an Ordine Nuovo commando led by Pierluigi Concutelli and Gianfranco Ferro) and Guido Calvi, Valpreda’s defence counsel.

Judge Vittorio Occorsio (1976)

Prior to the ID parade, Rolandi declared: “The man I am speaking about is 1.70 to 1.75 metres tall, aged about 40, normal build, dark hair, dark eyes, without moustache or beard. I have been shown a photograph by the carabinieri in Milan that I was told must be the person I  should recognise. I was also shown photographs of other people. I have never had this experience before.” Rolandi then picked out Valpreda. Valpreda asked him to look more closely, but Rolandi responded with: “That’s him. And if that isn’t him, then he’s not here.”

It was on the basis of this evidence — the absurdity of which would later be exposed — a monster was created. The press could now crow success: “The terror machine has been cracked.”