The definitive sentence of Adriano Sofri, ex-leader of Lotta Continua,
Giorgio Pietrostefani and Ovidio Bompressi to 22 years of detention
for a crime committed twenty-five years ago has been sanctioned by the
Court of Cassation, bringing an end to a trial that began in 1988.
Seven judgements from then on, the last one on Wednesday, January
25th, which, practicaly speaking, corresponds to life imprisonment,
considering the age of the accused, all over fifty.
This case is not to be considered merely an "Italian affair" but more properly an extremely serious attempt to judge the history of the past twenty-five years, from May 1969 to today, and concerns the very issue of justice as felt today in many countries. Furthermore, we are probably dealingwith the conviction of three innocent people who have all chosen to not evade justice (Pietrostefani, who lives in Paris, could have taken benefit of the invalidation by prescription provided by French law).
Adriano Sofri considers himself "kidnapped", and all three refuse to petition for mercy as this would be an admission of guilt. But there is a growing movement in favour of a petition of mercy. An extraordinary fact must be added: Alfonso Malinconico, one of the judges of the Court of Cassation who passed the sentence, has declared that the condemned should be granted a pardon by the President: "The 'Sofri-Pietrostefani-Bompressi case' is a particular one and should be examined with special attention, within a social and historical framework that disregards the judge's evaluations".
In December 1969 a group of the extreme right, tied to the 'corrupt-intelligence-services', placed a bomb in the 'Bank of Agriculture' of Milan, that exploded killing sixteen people. The police decided at the time to ascribe the act to the anarchists. One of them, Giuseppe Pinelli, died falling from the window of the Police Superintendent Calabresi's office, on the fourth floor of a Police Station in Milan. An obscure and intricate inquest followed the death (the police said that Pinelli threw himself out of the window "with a feline leap").Reactions of indignation from the left followed, especially from the newspaper 'Lotta Continua' directed by a young student of the 'Normale' university of Pisa, Adriano Sofri, who launched a violent campaign against the Police Superintendent Calabresi. He was not the only one to do so. Calabresi denounced them: and was himself cleared from accusation. In 1972 Calabresi was assassinated in Milan, in front of his home.
The inquiry that followed was obscure and embroiled: three representatives of the extreme right wing were arrested and then released.
Sixteen years later, in 1988, the cr∂pes-seller Leonardo Marino, 'repentant' ex-activist of 'Lotta Continua', decided to give what apparently was a spontaneous confession: he admitted being the driver in a crime ordered and concocted by Adriano Sofri. Nevertheless it became immediately evident -and was declared by the 'carabinieri' themselves- that the 'spontaneous unsolicited' confession was induced during fifteen days spent in a police station in the presence of an officer of the intelligence service.
Leonardo Marino's witnesses were contradictory. Adriano Sofri patiently defended himself, he decided to dismantle the wobbly structure built to destroy him through reasoning and proofs. Apart from the contradictions andunattendable character of Marino, all the evidence has mysteriously disappeared ( the bullets, the killer's car, the clothes Calabresi was wearing).
The judges seem more anxious to state Marino's credibility as a witness than to ask themselves who killed Calabresi. No proofs. Everything points to a 'willingness to punish' directed against a movement which was, according to Rossana Rossanda, " the most creative and the least schematic ofthem all". It was the only one which never ceased to declare itself hostile to an 'armed conflict'.
The historian Nicola Tranfaglia now reminds us that to understand the events of the early 70's a knowledge of the context in which they were produced is necessary. A context which was at the time scarcely known and accurately kept hidden, but that later on has continuously emerged more and more clearly and unmistakably: the government's leading-class of the time brought forth a 'tension strategy' with the complicity of intelligence-services, right-wing extremists, occult powers of various origins, and plotted together with obscure international allies.
An internecine conflict was therefore unwinding between those who had sworn allegiance to the Constitution, but betrayed it daily, and the new generation convinced of being able to rouse a revolution starting from the streets. As Norberto Bobbio said, at the time there was not a neutral State but an 'invisible government', stronger than the official one.
Adriano Sofri was certainly the first to point out the alliance between fascists, intelligence-services and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. After the dissolution of Lotta Continua this clear-headed and passionate intellectual, of visibly open and honest life-style, directed the daily newspaper 'Reporter'. His recent correspondence from Sarajevo for 'L'Unità' is impressive for it's political intelligence and human generosity. His friends in Cecenia are preparing to intervene in his favour and Daniel Cohn-Bendit is working for international mobilisation. Carlo Ginzburg, the historian, has already published in the book 'Il giudice e lo storico' (Einaudi 1991) his observations on the 'inquisitorial' juridical decrees against Sofri and his comrades, in which he retraces the same methods once applied in the trials against witches. It is now urgent that the French intellectuals take a position on this matter.