Dozens are injured but none seriously. Eight explode and 12 people are injured. 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.
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On May 17, , Luigi Calabresi, the police commissioner of Milan, was shot dead on his way to work. His slaying was a harbinger of the political violence that was to grip Italy for the next several years as terrorists on the right and the left waged a vicious war against one another and claimed hundreds of innocent victims.
The Years of Lead, as Italians call the period, crested in with the kidnapping and killing of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro and were over by the mid's. By then, many terrorists were behind bars, most serving sentences that had been increased by emergency anti-terrorism laws.
Now Italy is debating whether to close the books on that era by reducing the sentences of those terrorists still in jail -- in all, of whom were leftists and 33 were from the far right. But given the languid pace of Italian justice, many chapters stubbornly remain open.
Just this year, a year-old professor, journalist and former leftist leader, Adriano Sofri, began serving a year sentence in Pisa's central jail after Italy's highest court upheld his conviction for ordering the Calabresi assassination a quarter of a century ago.
The case against Mr. Sofri, who maintains his innocence, has reopened old divisions in Italy. At the heart of the matter is Italy's ability to deal with its terrorist past, whether in its courts, in its politics or in its history books.
The left wing of the political spectrum still has difficulty squaring the violence embraced by a few with the broad-based protest movements of , many of whose participants, after nearly three decades, are in positions of power. Right-wing political parties are still burdened with the lingering mystery of who ordered bombs to be placed in crowded places, killing dozens of bystanders.
So far, several commentators have said, the discussion has been mostly disappointing. She complained of ''a lack of any thought about what was done back then, and why it was done, what people thought back then, and why they thought it. Some argue that the former terrorists have paid their debt to the society they once tried to destroy, and that with their gray hair and failed ideologies they no longer represent a threat to security. Others -- backed by a public that still has raw memories of the bombs, ''kneecappings,'' kidnappings and ambush killings -- argue that there should be no mercy for those who killed and maimed to advance a cause.
But for many Italians, such change is not enough. They are still waiting for the terrorists to admit responsibility for the crimes. The proposal now under discussion in Parliament would reduce the sentences of those convicted under emergency laws, with the exception of those found guilty of mass murder.
Among those eligible would be Renato Curcio, founder of the notorious Red Brigades terror group, who has been in jail since and is allowed out of prison on a daily work-release program. Another is Toni Negri, a professor convicted in of aiding and abetting leftist subversives; he recently returned from self-exile in Paris to serve the remainder of a year sentence.
And then there is the case of Mr. Sofri, one of the best-known leftist leaders to emerge from the mass protests of He quit politics in but kept a galaxy of friends in high places, many of them former followers of Continuous Struggle, or Lotta Continua, as his movement and its newspaper were called. Sofri did not come under official accusation in the killing of Mr.
Calabresi, the Milan police commissioner, until , when Leonardo Marino, a former comrade, broke years of silence and told the police that Mr. Sofri and his top lieutenant, Giorgio Pietrostefani, had ordered the killing. Marino also said he had driven the getaway car for Ovidio Bompressi, another Lotta Continua member, who had fired the shots that killed Mr. Thus began a nine-year odyssey through the judicial system for Mr. Sofri, an ordeal that involved seven trials -- including one that had ended in acquittal -- and concluded when he walked into the Don Bosco jail here last January.
In each of his trials, the key evidence against Mr. Sofri and his two associates from Lotta Continua was the word of Mr. In a twist of justice, Mr. Marino has been set free because the statute of limitations for his role in the crime has expired. But in January, Italy's highest court upheld the conviction of Mr. Sofri and the two other men, despite many contradictions discovered in Mr. Marino's testimony.
This is the stuff of a cause celebre, and that is what the Sofri case has become. Editors and reporters who were once Mr. Sofri's colleagues at Lotta Continua have printed scores of sympathetic articles and allotted him regular space on their pages, where he holds forth about conditions in Italian prisons and the health of Italian society. His cause has also been adopted by many public figures in Italy, on the right as well as the left, among them former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the media mogul and leader of the center-right opposition.
They see it as an example of a justice system held hostage by witnesses like Mr. Marino who turn state's evidence and get lenient treatment. For many members of the generation, the verdict in the Calabresi case, which implicitly links the mass protests of the late 's with political terrorism, has disturbing historical implications.
At the Pisa prison where he now lives in a solitary cell, Mr. Sofri also rejects any link between his case and the Years of Lead.
To understand why Mr. Sofri, a slight man with graying hair, is now in jail requires a trip back in time to December , three years before Mr. Calabrese was assassinated, when the police commissioner was investigating a bomb explosion at the Piazza Fontana in Milan that killed 16 people and stunned the nation.
Investigators swiftly turned their focus on Italy's turbulent leftist groups. The left in turn, with Lotta Continua in the lead, attributed the bombing to right-wing extremists whom they suspected of working in collusion with Italy's secret police. As it turned out, the leftist version was correct: A series of trials have concluded that the Piazza Fontana bomb -- like the bomb explosion at the Bologna train station that killed 80 people in -- was the work of right-wing terrorists whose goal is now believed to have been to stir public opinion against Italy's Communists.
Sofri said, recalling his newspaper's campaign. Within days of the bombing, the Milan police, led by Mr. Calabresi, had zeroed in on two anarchists who were picked up and questioned intensively. One of them, Giuseppe Pinelli, died when he fell from a fourth-story window at the Milan police headquarters.
The police called it a suicide; Italy's leftists called it murder. On the pages of Lotta Continua, Mr. Sofri led the campaign against Mr. Calabresi, calling him a murderer and warning that justice for Mr. Pinelli's death would be meted out not in the courts, but ''on the streets. Calabresi was gunned down, it was not surprising that many thought the blame lay somewhere in Lotta Continua.
And yet until Mr. Marino came forward 16 years later, there was nothing to link the case to Mr. Sofri said, ''but in , if you had asked a police officer whether I had been the instigator, they would have laughed.
It only became plausible later. Yet Mr. Sofri acknowledged that the protest movements, with their aggressive talk of revolution and proletarian justice, did carry the seeds of future violence. Even the songs we sang at the time, if taken at their face value, incited to violence. One spoke of Vietnam and said, 'Why speak of peace? The campaign against Mr. Calabresi was ''a verbally violent campaign,'' Mr. Sofri said, ''although I don't know to what point that violence leads to responsibility for murder.
Accepting any responsibility at all for the violence has set Mr. Sofri apart from many former comrades, who argue that the violence by the left was justified because it was defending itself from the attacks of a corrupt state. To Mr. Sofri, sitting in jail in Pisa, the debate over a pardon is academic.
Not only would it not apply to his case, but in his view, no bill reducing the sentences is likely to win the two-thirds majority needed in Parliament.
He said the debate had shown that the old divisions, which 20 years ago caused some Italians to turn to violence, are still there, even if in a milder form.
Sofri said. In fact, it has only exasperated the hate. View on timesmachine. TimesMachine is an exclusive benefit for home delivery and digital subscribers. Home Page World U.
Dispute in Italy Is Conjuring Up Its Terrorist Past
On May 17, , Luigi Calabresi, the police commissioner of Milan, was shot dead on his way to work. His slaying was a harbinger of the political violence that was to grip Italy for the next several years as terrorists on the right and the left waged a vicious war against one another and claimed hundreds of innocent victims. The Years of Lead, as Italians call the period, crested in with the kidnapping and killing of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro and were over by the mid's. By then, many terrorists were behind bars, most serving sentences that had been increased by emergency anti-terrorism laws. Now Italy is debating whether to close the books on that era by reducing the sentences of those terrorists still in jail -- in all, of whom were leftists and 33 were from the far right.
Adriano Sofri, a former journalist and professor at Florence's Academy of Fine Arts, has been in prison in Pisa since , when the supreme court upheld his conviction for the murder of Luigi Calabresi, the head of the office responsible for political crimes in Milan, who was shot dead outside his home in In a case which has become a cause celebre in Italy, a Venice court yesterday ordered that Sofri and his two alleged accomplices must be retried in October. The complex case has its roots in the Piazza Fontana bombing in which 16 people died, and which marked the start of 20 years of left and rightwing terrorism in Italy. Police picked up a leftwing anarchist on suspicion of being involved in the bombing. He later plunged to his death from the window of Milan's police headquarters while being held for interrogation by Calabresi. Sofri was the charismatic leader of the extreme leftwing organisation Lotta Continua Continuous Struggle , a group which both sympathised with and criticised the actions of the Red Brigades.
Professor wins retrial for killing of police chief
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