Archives for posts with tag: Pino Rauti

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)


Pasquale Juliano tried but it blew up in his face.

Franco Freda (one of the authors — with Ventura — of the Piazza Fontana bombing of 12 December 1969)

In the spring of 1969, the head of the Padua flying squad, Pasquale Juliano, developed an interest in the activities of a neo-Nazi group operating in the city. Some of his informants — Niccolò Pezzato and Francesco Tomasoni — had told him that the people responsible for the attacks on the homes of police chief Francesco Allitto Bonanno on 20 April 1968 and the office of university rector Enrico Opocher on 15 April 1969 were part of a group headed by Franco Freda.

Massimiliano Faccini (Quartermaster)

Juliano organised a stakeout on the home of Massimiliano Fachini, convinced he was the quartermaster in charge of the group’s weapons and explosives. One June evening, thanks to his usual sources, Juliano surprised Giancarlo Patrese (another member of Freda’s group) at the house in possession of a bomb and a revolver. He ordered the arrest of Patrese, Fachini and Gustavo Bocchini, grandson of Arturo Bocchini, the one-time chief of police under the fascists. Juliano believed he had made a start on breaking up the bomb team, but instead he found himself caught up in an “affair” bigger than he was. Patrese confessed he had received the arms and explosives from none other than Juliano’s own informant, Pezzato, who had entered Fachini’s house with him.

Pasquale Juliano (former head of Padua's Flying Squad)

This account of events was denied by the building’s concierge, Alberto Muraro, a one-time carabinieri. Patrese had entered on his own and left on his own, but his evidence was insufficient and Juliano was accused of having entrapped the three fascists.

The director of the confidential affairs bureau of the Interior Ministry, Elvio Catenacci then suddenly and unexpectedly intervened. Catenacci — the same official who conducted the investigation at police headquarters in Milan following Pinelli’s death — ordered Juliano’s immediate suspension from duty without pay and it was to be two years before he was reinstated and reassigned to Ruvo di Puglia, and it was not until 1979 that Juliano was finally cleared.

A campaign of dissuasion followed. Pezzato and Tomasoni, the informants, were jailed and placed in the same cell as Patrese, who persuaded them to retract. Meanwhile, on 13 September, the concierge Muraro was found dead at the foot of some stairs. Accidental death, investigators concluded, without so much as an autopsy, as would be normal in such cases. ‘One of these days you’ll drop by  looking for me and I’ll be found with my head caved in in the cellar or in the lift shaft”, Muraro had confided to his friend Italo Zaninello shortly before his death.

Alberto Muraro

Muraro had been due to present himself before the magistrate looking into the Juliano case two days later, on 15 September. The confidential affairs bureau had yet again intervened efficiently: Freda was not to be obstructed.

Notwithstanding the protection he enjoyed, Freda found someone else making inquiries about him — carabinieri maresciallo Alvise Munari.

The examining magistrate in Treviso, Giancarlo Stiz, had commissioned Munari —whose family had worked the land around Bassano del Grappa for generations — to investigate a lead resulting from a statement made by a teacher of French in Marrada, Guido Lorenzon, a member of the Christian Democratic Party.

Vittorio Veneto, 15 December 1969. Lorenzon visited Albert Steccanella, a local lawyer who told him a long and convoluted story about a friend of his, Giovanni Ventura, a publisher and bookseller from Castelfranco Veneto. Ventura, Lorenzon said, had mentioned the 12 December bombings to him on the afternoon of 13 December, after returning from Milan or Rome and showed sufficient familiarity with the events and places involved as make an impression on Lorenzon.

Lawyer Steccanella sensed Lorenzon’s story might lead on to significant revelations, so he asked him to set it all down in a memorandum, which he did and delivered to him three days later. On 26 December, having realised the gravity of the facts provided by Lorenzon, the lawyer visited the Treviso prosecutor and related everything that his client had told him: that there was in the Veneto a subversive organisation which might just have been implicated in the massacre. Count Pietro Loredan backed this organisation from Volpato del Montello.

Conte Pietro Loredan (centre)

On 31 December Lorenzon called on the public prosecutor in Treviso, Pietro Calogero and told him about Ventura’s confidences. The publisher had planted a bomb which had failed to go off, in a public office in Milan, in May; he had funded the August train bombings; he knew the underpass at the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro where the bomb went off on 12 December like the back of his hand and could not understand how on earth the bomb in the Banca Commerciale in Milan had failed to explode. Also, in September, Ventura showed him a battery-operated timer. Furthermore, he was constructing a device for use against US president Richard Nixon during his forthcoming visit to Italy.

These were important revelations. On 12 February 1970, the examining magistrate in Rome, Ernesto Cudillo, was due to hear this witness from Venice, but he did not impress him. Even so, he could not completely ignore this encounter: on the afternoon of the following day, at the conclusion of the questioning of Pietro Valpreda, he asked the anarchist if he knew anyone by the name of Giovanni Ventura or Guido Lorenzon. “I don’t know anybody of that name. The only two Venturas I have ever met and known are both dancers”, was Valpreda’s response.

Lorenzon was so overcome with guilt at his betrayal of his friend Ventura that on 4 January 1970 he told him that he had approached the magistrates.  Ventura and Freda then put the French teacher under pressure to change or retract his statement. A seesaw of statements and retractions followed, but anomalous retractions at that, as Lorenzon himself later confessed to the judges: “It occurred to me to retract something which I had never stated. I had mentioned things that I had heard, things which I had never actually seen, but I had never stated, say, that Ventura had gone to the Piazza Fontana and that Ventura had planted the bombs on the trains, but he still told me everything that I later recounted. In my retraction, however, I therefore retracted something that I had never said, secretly hoping that that statement might then be taken for what it was, to wit, false. It was only a way of buying time because at the time the magistrate was away and I had to face Ventura on a daily basis.”

Investigators finally kitted Lorenzon out with a tape-recorder to be used secretly in conversations with Ventura. The tapes were then forwarded to Rome, to Cudillo and his colleague Vittorio Occorsio, the prosecuting counsel who found nothing of interest in them. Occorsio, however, ventured the following statement: “Lorenzon’s charges are without foundation. In the lengthy taped conversations the only point of note is that Ventura offered no confidences of the sort and therefore spoke in terms that plainly show that he had nothing to do with the events. There is nothing to suggest that Ventura was, even marginally, an accomplice in the outrages of 12 December 1969.” Cudillo and Occorsio found Venturaa decent guy” and Fredaa gentleman”.  In short, they were two upstanding citizens who had been unfairly slandered by Lorenzon.

Vittorio Occorsio (prosecuting counsel)

The Treviso magistrates did not share these opinions. When the tapes were returned to Stiz at the end of 1970, there was a change of tune. After listening carefully to the taped conversations, Stiz immediately sent for Lorenzon who confirmed everything to him. Stiz continued with his inquiries, carefully scrutinising the book Justice is Like A Tiller: It Goes Where It is Steered, written by Freda as an attack on Juliano’s investigation. He listened to other witnesses and on 13 April 1971 he indicted Freda, Ventura and Aldo Trinco for conspiracy to subvert the course of justice and, above all, for the bombings in Milan on 25 April and for the 9 August train bombings. But the trio’s defence lawyers petitioned for the case to be heard before the judges in Padua on grounds of territorial competence. The accused were released.

A further change of scene. On 5 November, during restructuring work at the home of Giancarlo Marchesin, a leading socialist in Castelfranco Veneto (Treviso), builders discovered a crate filled with weapons behind a wall. When questioned by Stiz, Marchesin admitted that the crate had been given to him by Franco Comacchio on behalf of Giovanni Ventura. The crate (which Comacchio had received from Ruggero Pan, an assistant in Ventura’s bookshop doing his military service at the time) had initially held explosives too, but Comacchio had hidden these in the countryside near Crespano.

On 7 November Comacchio went with some carabinieri from Treviso to collect the explosives. But without warning the carabinieri unexpectedly blew up the 35 sticks. But sticks of what? Judging by the characteristic smell of bitter almonds after the explosion, it must have been the by now famous gelignite.

Later statements by Carlo Digilio indicated that from 1967 the Ordine Nuovo groups in Padua and Venice had had a dump in the Paese area (near Treviso) where they had stored a large quantity of explosives and weapons in the use of which they were instructed by Digilio himself. It was later discovered that the few weapons shipped to Marchesin’s home were a tiny, tiny part of the two groups’ arsenal, which had been divided up after the Piazza Fontana massacre.

Questioned by magistrates, Pan began talking. Weapons and explosives had been passed to him by Ventura. Why? In 1968 Pan had worked in Ventura’s bookshop and on 10 March 1969 he had been hired, through Freda’s influence, as an attendant at the Configliaschi Institute for the Blind. The concierge there was Marco Pozzan, one of Freda’s most loyal followers. Freda had tried to draw the young Pozzan into his group and confided a number of things to him regarding the attacks being mounted in Padua and in other cities. All of these details wound up in an affidavit that Pan wrote in jail, heavily implicating Ventura and Freda, especially in the train bombings.

At this point in the investigations the name of Ordine Nuovo founder and Il Tempo reporter Pino Rauti came up — along with another journalist, Guido Giannettini (an important figure of whom more anon.) Rauti was also the author of the book Red Hands on the Armed Forces, published under the nom de plume Flavio Messalla.

Guido Giannetini ('journalist' and secret service agent) with Franco Freda

Marco Pozzan implicated Rauti in subversive activity, along with Freda and Ventura. Pozzan insisted Rauti had taken part in a meeting of the group in Padua on 18 April, during which the bombings in Milan on 25 April were approved). Stiz and Calogero dispatched maresciallo Munari to Rome on 4 March 1972 to arrest Rauti on charges of massacre.  On 22 March, Freda and Ventura were indicted in connection with the Piazza Fontana outrage.

Invocation of that crime obliged the Treviso magistrates to hand its case over to their Milan colleagues and from then on it was in the hands of examining magistrate Gerardo D’Ambrosio.

Gerardo D'Ambrosio

Rauti denied all charges and Pozzan retracted — and was promptly smuggled out of the country to Spain with the aid of the SID. Renato Angiolillo, Il Tempo’s publisher, and a number of editorial staff insisted that on the day in question, 18 April, Rauti had been at work in the editorial offices.  So, one month later, on 24 April, D’Ambrosio freed Rauti on the grounds of insufficient evidence. The parliamentary elections were held on 7 May and Rauti was elected on the MSI ticket. The likelihood is that Pozzan implicated Rauti on Freda’s instructions in order to have someone in the frame someone who could mobilise the MSI on Rauti’s, and thereby also on Freda’s behalf.

But D’Ambrosio was more fortunate with Ventura who admitted involvement in the May 1969 attacks in Turin and those in July in Milan. More importantly, he implicated his friend Freda in the attacks. It was from Freda, the Padua lawyer, he had taken delivery of the bombs. Again, it had been Freda who had announced the August bombings before they happened.  Point by point, everything in Lorenzon’s confession in 1969 was confirmed — almost four years after the event.

But something else emerged from the interrogations by the judges in Treviso and Milan, something considerably more serious for Ventura. It was proved he had definitely been in Rome on the afternoon of 12 December 1969. Ventura finally admitted this, but clung desperately to a weak alibi that was to soon be demolished — that he had gone to the capital because he had been informed the previous day his brother Luigi, a resident of a Catholic boarding school, had suffered a serious epileptic fit. The incident was true, but the date was false. According to Don Pietro Sartorio, the bursar of the home, Luigi Ventura had his attack at 12.30 p.m. on 14 December (on the Sunday rather than the Friday). Don Sartorio called a Red Cross ambulance and a physician who checked the boy over and said that no resuscitation was necessary — the fit having passed. The bursar informed the Ventura family of the fit and expressed his regret that he had not been advised of the boy’s state of health.

Ventura had been caught out — but there was more. He claimed that on the afternoon in question, after phoning the school and discovering Luigi was feeling better, he had visited a family friend, Diego Giannolla in his law chambers. He then went to the Lerici publishing house to meet his partner Rinaldo Tomba — alibis which both denied. In the end he claimed he had spent the evening of 12 December in the home of a friend, Antonio Massari who put him up for the night.

But that was not the only night Ventura had spent in Rome. According to the register of the Locarno hotel, he had stayed in Rome from 5 to 8 December as well as on the night of 10-11 December, only returning home on 13 December. Meeting up with Lorenzon that afternoon, he was excited about what had happened in Milan and Rome and initiated the loose talk that — after Lorenzon had reported it first to Steccanella and then to magistrates in Treviso — implicated Ventura and Freda in the bombings.


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.


1975, Catanzaro: Franco Freda and Giovanni Ventura arrive to be tried for their role in the Piazza Fontana bombing

BACK TO THE BOMBING, that is, back to 1969. The Milan bombs on 25 April 1969 injured only a few people. The same was true of the train bombing on 9 August. These devices had all used the same sort of Ruhla brand timer. The same brand, which a strange fellow had bought in batches of, three and four from the Standa store in Treviso. But the first one put to the test had failed.

On 24 July a bomb in Milan’s Palace of Justice failed to explode so the terrorists called in an expert. Franco Freda had an electrician Tullio Fabris (who had installed some chandeliers for Freda in his studio in the Via San Biagio in Padua) explain to him how to connect up an alarm clock to a resistor that would then light storm lamps. Fabris gave Freda a technical run-down, which he tested out on the trains. The experiment worked: eight out of ten bombs exploded. The two, which failed to explode, had used Ruhla timepieces.

The next step was to switch to timers. Freda, through Fabris, ordered 50 60-minute timers from Elettrocontrolli in Bologna. On 19 September Freda travelled to the Bologna with Fabris to collect the Junghan-Diehl timers.

New gear, new trials. Lesson one: Fabris showed Freda (even prior to buying the timers) how to connect the battery, chromium-nickel wire and storm lamp to a timing device. Having seen the results for himself, Freda had Fabris buy a length of the wire. Lesson two: after collecting the timers, the electrician gave Freda and Ventura a quick run-down on timing devices and their use. Freda studiously took notes. Lesson three: Under Fabris’s supervision, Freda and Ventura twice assembled a device. The trial went perfectly. Everything was now ready for the big one. In fact the bag containing the unexploded bomb left at the Banca Commerciale Italiana in Milan’s Piazza della Scala was found to contain the dial from a Junghans-Diehl timing device. The bag was one of a batch made by the German firm of Mosbach-Gruber and imported into Italy. The bags used in the bombings were of two sorts: the brown City 2131 and the black Peraso 2131 models, and in Italy only three firms sold both sorts — Biagini in Milan, Protto in Cuneo and Al Duomo in Padua.

When the owner of the Al Duomo luggage shop, Fausto Giuriati, saw the photo of the bag in the newspapers and on television, he rang police headquarters. It took a few days before someone from the police called at his shop. Loretta Galeazzo, his shop assistant, said she had sold four bags of that sort to a well-dressed young man on the evening of 10 December. The Padua police forwarded a report to Milan police headquarters and to the confidential affairs bureau at the Interior Ministry, but it was three years before anyone called back to the Padua city centre shop. Even then it was not on any instructions from Milan or Rome. Who came to call? It was Carabinieri Alvise Munari, making inquiries on behalf of examining magistrate Giancarlo Stiz in Treviso.

Let us remain in Padua — the day before the bombings. Here is a reasonable reconstruction of events based on what we know so far. Freda, by now an expert thanks to Fabris’ training, put the explosive devices using the gelignite obtained by Delfo Zorzi, and wired them up to the Junghans-Diehl timers. He placed them in the bags bought from the Al Duomo shop in Padua and in another bag. He then passed the bags to the people whose job it was to transport them. Zorzi then left for Milan where members of Giancarlo Rognoni’s La Fenice were waiting for him. They were to provide the operational base, a flat near the Piazza Fontana. Ventura on the other hand travelled to Rome to deliver his device to comrades from the Avanguardia Nazionale, answerable to Stefano Delle Chiaie.

On the afternoon of 12 December 1969 two bags containing two gelignite bombs wired up to Junghans-Diehl timers were planted in the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura in the Piazza Fontana and the Banca Commerciale Italiana in the Piazza della Scala. A further device was planted in the underpass at the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro in Rome and two more at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Piazza Venezia. The Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale members had carried out their mission almost to the point of perfection.

The only hitch was the failure of the device left at the Banca Commerciale in Milan, but lo and behold, along came expert Teonesto Cerri, as we have seen, who destroyed the incriminating evidence. But not completely. In the confusion he forgot to blow up the dial of the timer left behind in the bag.

It was that timer that would betray the Freda group and its partners. Only five were ever used, the others were passed to Cristiano De Eccher to hide them.

Cristiano De Eccher

De Eccher, a descendant of a noble family of the Holy Roman Empire, had a castle in Calavino near Trento. In 1969 he was 19 years old, a member of Avanguardia Nazionale, a Padua University student and in close contact with Freda.  He was one of the few people with whom the aristocratic Freda used the familiar form of address, perhaps because of De Eccher’s ancient aristocratic lineage. So De Eccher was a point of contact between the two Nazi groups. De Eccher hid the timers, but he was more loyal to Delle Chiaie than to Freda and was never to hand the timers over again. So much so that he provoked fury in the Paduan prosecution counsel who complained to a fascist colleague, Sergio Calore, “about being let down by a baron of the Holy Roman Empire”.

Since Freda could not deny having bought the timers, he claimed that he had passed them to a certain Captain Hamid from the Algerian secret services that supposedly asked for them to use in attacks on Zionist targets. Spectacularly, the judges believed this, not at all disturbed by the fact that the Israeli secret service, Mossad, stated that no Captain Hamid existed. The judges appeared to believe that it was perfectly plausible that an Algerian agent should have approached a law officer in Padua to obtain timing devices.

Meanwhile the electrician Fabris made only partial admissions to the court. Why? He had been threatened three times into keeping his mouth shut — twice by Massimiliano Fachini and again by Massimiliano Fachini in the presence of Pino Rauti.

In fact the timers had not gone to Algeria. They remained in the care of De Eccher who was under the protection of carabinieri Colonel Michele Santoro. Some ended up with the La Fenice group in Milan and some with Avanguardia Nazionale in Rome, which had used a few in the attacks on the Reggio Calabria express trains on the night of 21-22 October 1972.

Giangiacomo Feltrinelli (1926-1972 - probably murdered!)

In 1973 La Fenice group militants prepared a plan to plant a few of these timers in a house belonging to Giangiacomo Feltrinelli (found dead in Segrate in March 1972) The house — in fact it was a chateau in Villadeati in the Monferrato— was the property of the Feltrinelli family who scarcely ever used it. A few militants from Giancarlo Rognoni’s group were to break into the chateau and hide the timers before tipping off the carabinieri.  The purpose of all this was to steer the Piazza Fontana investigations back to the “red trail”, at a time when D’Ambrosio was zeroing in on the fascists. But the scheme had to be shelved because Rognoni found it too far-fetched.

Two years earlier, Martino Siciliano and Marco Foscari from the Venice Ordine Nuovo had turned their attentions to Feltrinelli. Foscari had a family home in Paternion in Carinthia (Austria), not far from a chalet belonging to Sibilla Melega. Feltrinelli, whose was on the run at the time, often hid out in the chalet and it occurred to the two Ordine Nuovo members that they might kidnap him, ferry him back to Italy and leave him for the police to find.

So, armed with hunting rifles, behind the wheel of an off-road vehicle and accompanied by Foscari’s gamekeeper, a former Waffen SS member, off they went to grab Feltrinelli. They also had a bottle of ether to help them subdue the publisher, rope to tie him and a trunk in which to ferry him over the border.

But their plan was improvised and they were out of luck: “We had no problems locating the property where the chalet was, but Feltrinelli was nowhere to be seen and, anyway, the chalet appeared locked up. So we abandoned the plan as readily as we conceived it”, Siciliano recalled.

So much for the timers. Now to the gelignite. The bombings on 12 December 1969 did not use all the explosives; some were used later by the Venice Ordine Nuovo group.

Mestre, 27 October 1970. Siciliano was putting together a time bomb, but unsure as to whether or not he had primed it correctly, it occurred to him to connect to a shared fuse wired to the gelignite.  Piero Andreatta planted the device, which exploded, outside the Coin store in the Piazza Barche.

But the gelignite was used also in more telling and more lethal bombings. Delfo Zorzi handed Marcello Soffiati from the Verona group a bomb assembled using some of the explosive which he took to Milan where he handed it over to members of the Milanese Squadre d’azione Mussolini (SAM) (Mussolini Action Squads) who, in turn, sent it on to Brescia.

Piazza della Loggia. Brescia, 8 May 1974: bomb explodes during a demonstration sponsored by the Brescia United Antifascist Committee and local trade unions

This bomb exploded at 10.20 am on 28 May 1974, during a demonstration sponsored by the Brescia United Antifascist Committee and the trade unions in the Piazza della Loggia in Brescia. It went off during a speech by Franco Castrezzati the provincial secretary of the FIM-CISL. Eight people died and nearly a hundred people were injured. This incident triggered a falling-out in Ordine Nuovo ranks and relations between Zorzi and Soffiati deteriorated to the point where they became enemies. Soffiati could not forgive his Venetian colleague for implicating him in an operation of such significance, especially one that departed from the strategy adopted hitherto — planting bombs that could be blamed on the left.


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


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.”