SPOLETO – 12th July, Piazza del Comune, 19.00
Last night as many as 200 people protested against the arrest of Michele Fabiani.
Michele’s father, Aurelio, described the events which led to his son’s arrest on Friday.
Michele and four friends were arrested for the first time on 23rd October, 2007.
They were charged with ‘criminal association to commit terrorist acts.’
None of them had ever been in trouble before, but they were arrested and imprisoned under a Terrorism Act, which meant that they were kept in isolation for up to four months – no prison privileges, no contact with other prisoners, limited hours of exercise alone in a prison yard. The boys were not allowed to speak with each other. They could only speak to their family and their lawyers.
Last night, Dario Polinari, one of the accused, spoke for the first time in public about his experience. He is no longer a suspected terrorist. The charges have been dropped, though he has received no compensation for the time that he spent in solitary confinement. He is still paying the lawyers who secured his release after four trials over the course of six years.
Now, he says, he is “afraid.” Afraid of the State. Afraid for the future.
Spoleto is my home, he says, but he can’t stay here. He is unemployable. He has no future. He is a marked man.
Dario Polinori is 28 years old…
While being interrogated as 'terrorists,' Dario and Michele admitted that they had written political slogans on a wall with a spray-gun.
Dario was in prison for one year... for writing a slogan on a wall.
Michele was sentenced to two years and four months... for writing slogans on walls and damaging the windscreen-wipers of a bulldozer. He was protesting about environmental issues.
He has been arrested to atone for these heinous crimes...
23rd October, 2007.
Five boys were arrested in Spoleto, Umbria.
According to carabiniere general, Giampoalo Ganzer, they were TERRORISTS.
They had sent unexploded bullets to Maria Rita Lorenzetti, the President of the Umbria region.
The news was the main item on Italian tv, and it appeared on the front page of the Washington Post.
10th July, 2014.
The charge of TERRORISM has long been dismissed.
Now, they are VANDALS, who damaged a bulldozer, set fire to an electric fuse-box and wrote on walls with a spray-can that the Lord Mayor of Spoleto was fat…
In the interval of almost seven years, many things have happened:
Two of the arrested boys have died of natural causes.
General Ganzer was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the illegal detention of arms and drugs. An appeal court reduced the sentence to 4 years. Though found guilty, he has never been in jail.
Maria Rita Lorenzetti was arrested on charges of corruption. After 15 days of house-arrest, she was released, and is now awaiting trial
And yesterday, Michele Fabiani, the ‘terrorist’ leader was arrested again.
After 11 months in prison – Michele celebrated his 21st birthday while serving 4 months in solitary confinement – he must now serve what remains of his prison sentence for ACTS OF VANDALISM – 1 year, 3 months and 25 days.
This is a clear case of Italian INJUSTICE.
The State failed to convince a judge that the boys were terrorists, but the State cannot lose face.
ONE PERSON is now in prison as a result of the failed BRUSHWOOD case.
And he is NOT a terrorist…
One of the most memorable scenes in The Godfather – Part 2 concerns the murder of Don Fanucci (played by Gastone Moschin), boss of the Black Hand, the mafia organisation which controls New York’s Little Italy.
Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) tracks Don Fanucci from the roof-tops, as the boss pays tribute to the revered statue of San Rocco (the patron saint of plague victims). When Vito Corleone kills Fanucci, he rids the poor neighbourhood of a ‘plague,’ and people start to call him 'don.' He assumes the mantle of the benevolent boss.
It is wonderful cinema, and it captures in a nutshell the underlying significance of religion for the Italian immigrants.
Last week in Oppido Mamertina, a small town in Calabria, a religious procession came to an unscheduled halt outside the home of Peppe Mazzagatti, a modern ’ndrangheta boss. The holy statue of the Virgin Mary made a deferential ‘bow’ to a murderer who is under house-arrest for reasons of ill-health.
The policemen who were overseeing the procession abandoned the scene in protest. They filmed what happened, and the fact that the Lord Mayor and members of the local council did not protest has been greeted with derision in the national newspapers.
Just two weeks before, the new Pope, Francis I, had excommunicated anyone belonging to a mafia clan, and one hopes that the Pope will condemn what happened in Oppido Mamertina, and remove the local parish priest.
So what does a religious procession represent in Italy?
Well, it demonstrates the power of the Church. It also demonstrates the allegiance of the clergy, the close ties which exist between the religious and the civil authorities, and the fact that Italian people still believe in the Catholic religion.
At the same time, in places like Oppido Mamertina, police investigations have revealed that 25 of the 30 men who were carrying the heavy statue of the Virgin Mary on their shoulders have been in prison, many of them for crimes associated with the Mafia. Donations made to the local church – money which financed the procession – probably came from the pockets of men who kill without scruple to pursue their criminal schemes.
Let’s put it another way: the priests couldn’t abandon the procession for two reasons – a) they couldn’t leave their statue in the hands of the ’ndrangheta, and b) the ’ndrangheta was financing a religious event. Many of the statue-bearers will have taken Holy Communion during the ceremony, despite the fact that the Pope had excommunicated them.
So, who does the Virgin Mary represent in Oppido Mamertina?
It is fair to say that she represents the Mafia. Everyone knows that the statue-bearers are not innocent, little altar-boys. Everyone – including the priests – knows that the statue of the Virgin Mary did not stop outside the house of a murderer by accident. Nor did She make a deferential ‘bow’ by chance…
This was the ’ndrangheta’s annual feast in Oppido Mamertina, the day when the bosses remind everyone who they are, what they are, and tell the world how powerful they are.
What they were saying publicly was this: we are untouchable…
Don Fanucci was walking the streets of Oppido Mamertina, and you can be sure that the next Don Corleone was watching from the roof-tops, gun in hand…
There will be another 750 religious processions in the summer months in Calabria.
The Virgin Mary has a couple of busy months ahead…
Officially, this blog is closed for the summer.
Unofficially, it’s wide open. Life’s too short for holidays!
In November, our new novel, CRY WOLF, will be published in the UK by Severn House.
Over the summer, I intend to post news about the ’ndrangheta, a Mafia organisation which plays a major part in our story.
Italy has many regional mafias, but the ’ndrangheta from Calabria, the ‘toe’ of the Italian peninsula, is the most powerful of them all.
Two weeks ago, Pope Francis I visited Calabria. He went further than any previous pope in his condemnation of the ’ndrangheta. In fact, he decided to excommunicate anyone who belongs to an ’ndrangheta clan, and he announced the anathema in public to great media acclaim. The tv and the newspapers lapped it up.
Last Wednesday, the ’ndrangheta struck back.
During the annual procession in a small town called Oppido Mamertina, an unscheduled stop was made outside the house of ’ndrangheta boss, Giuseppe Mazzagatti, the 82-year-old head of the local clan, who is under house-arrest. Poor health got him out of jail where he was serving a life sentence for murders connected with the mafia..
Every town in Italy has its churches and its traditions. Once a year, a statue of the Virgin Mary is carried through the streets of Oppido Mamertina on the shoulders of thirty men in the presence of the parish priests and local clergy. The lord mayor and members of the town council also took part, and the event was presided over by the local carabinieri (the military police)..
When the procession suddenly stopped and the statue of the Virgin Mary turned in the direction of the boss’s house and gave a respectful little bow, there was an uproar.
The police immediately withdrew from the procession, which left the ’ndrangheta in control.
That’s the way it is in the south of Italy. The Pope can say what he likes, but it makes no difference.
Now, reactions against Pope Francis I are spreading throughout Italian prisons; members of the ’ndrangheta are on strike, refusing to take holy communion…
Next blog: the mafia and religion!
Who are your ancestors?
It’s a simple question, and easy to answer. Internet is full of sites which will trace your genealogy, or ‘lineage’ if you have a noble ancestry. Most people don’t bother. “Who cares?” they say, and as a general rule, they are right. Knowing where you come from does not necessarily make you a better person, or a happier one.
But then DNA came along, the Big Brother of genetics…
Two days ago, I wrote about the hunt which lead to the arrest of a man suspected of murdering a thirteen-year-old Italian girl, Yara Gambirasio. His arrest was the result of the most extensive DNA sampling ever undertaken by the police. It had involved more than eighteen thousand men, and even then no definitive match was possible with samples taken from the victim’s clothes which partially matched the profile of a man who had died twenty-one years before. It took a lead based on gossip to trace the woman who had given birth to the illegitimate son of the dead man…
She provided the missing components in the DNA profile.
Her son was arrested, and his DNA was found to be a perfect match, except…
He denies involvement in the murder. And his mother denies having given birth to an illegitimate child. Indeed, they both insist that the DNA evidence is wrong.
Is it possible?
From a scientific point-of-view, we have to say no. DNA is the final, absolute demonstration of compatibility between traces found on the corpse and evidence taken from the suspect. If the two samples match perfectly, you have found the killer.
So how can mother and son deny the DNA evidence?
In his case, it is obvious. A killer’s last resort is to claim that he is innocent. He leaves it to the judge and the jury to decide. He hopes that members of the jury, and even the judge, will harbour doubts about DNA evidence. His lawyer will try to argue that the victim’s DNA trace may have been passed to him by chance, or that the sample may have been contaminated in the laboratory when the various samples of DNA were confronted. The lawyer will probably insist that one or more of the samples was too small, and in such poor condition, that absolute 100% certainty of the validity of the scientific testing is in question. That is, the court case will become a wrangle over the technical procedures, and whether they were correctly followed.
But what about the mother?
Why would she deny the DNA evidence?
Pride, perhaps? Shame? Or is it a question of ancestry, genealogy, lineage?
This woman was married. She had had other children, and then she had twins, a boy and a girl, and the boy, now a man, is suspected of murder. If she admits that the DNA sample is correct, it means a) that she admits having had an affair with another man when she was already married; b) that she knew all along that her illegitimate son was the man the police were looking for. The name of the natural father and the suspicion that he had had an illegitimate son has been widely reported in the newspapers and on television over the last two years, and everyone living in the area knew of the widespread DNA hunt for the killer…
How can you deny something like that?
Well, just think what such an admission would mean in genealogical terms within her own family. Her children would no longer automatically be brothers and sisters. Nor would her husband, the head of the family, be the father of all the children reared under his roof. All lines of ancestry, certainly within the last generation, would be totally upturned. Grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews would no longer hold that status in relation to one of their own. And yet, they would all still be legally and formally ‘related’ to a murderer…
One of the truisms of crime fiction is that murder reverberates far deeper than the crime itself, involving everyone within the immediate circle of the murder in a crisis of identity as each one tries in his or her own way to cope with the reality upheaval.
In this case, the mother says no. She denies the scientific evidence. She says that every deduction made from that evidence is wrong.
She may, in fact, be defending herself, her husband, her son, his twin sister, her other children and every other member of their extended family circle.