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HomeWorldHunger-striking anarchist in solitary confinement warns of death

Hunger-striking anarchist in solitary confinement warns of death


Rome, Italy – Thousands across Italy have protested the harsh conditions of Alfredo Cospito’s imprisonment, as fears for the 55-year-old anarchist’s health mount as his 150-day hunger strike continues.

Cospito was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2012 for shooting the chief of a nuclear power company in the leg, in his words “to punish one of the many wizards of the nuclear industry”, and later received a life sentence for letting detonation of two bombs in front of a police academy near Turin in 2006. Both attacks were not fatal and although no one was injured in the bombing, investigators concluded that the explosives were designed to kill.

In May, he was transferred to 41-bis, a form of solitary confinement popularly known as “hard prison” usually reserved for hardened criminals, such as mob bosses, becoming the first anarchist to be punished under the regime.

He began a hunger strike in October and has vowed to protest against 41-bis “until his last breath”.

“Today I am ready to die to make the world understand what 41-bis really is,” he wrote from prison this month. “I am convinced that my death will stand in the way of this regime.”

Cospito has reportedly lost more than 50 kg (110 pounds) and has been in and out of hospital, raising concerns that his health could be damaged beyond repair.

The Italian government says, based on consultations with the National Bioethics Council, that Cospito will be force-fed if necessary.

What is 41bis?

Originally intended as an interim measure when first drafted in 1986, 41-bis has been expanded over the years to become an important tool in the government’s fight against the mafia, through the “communication with the outside world” of prisoners to limit.

Prisoners under the age of 41 bis are severely isolated – they are only allowed one hour a month of closely supervised family visits and two hours a day outside prison cells. They have to stay alone in their cells for the rest of the day and cannot read anything from outside the prison.

Cospito has said he did not see a single blade of grass during his 41bis detention and that pictures of his parents have been removed from his cell.

Antigone, a non-profit advocacy group based in Rome that has been investigating prison conditions in Italy, has called for Cospito’s release from 41-bis.

“We have essentially followed 41-bis from the start,” said Alessio Scandurra, legal coordinator for Antigone, adding that “we have often had the impression that this measure is not only used to prevent detainees from communicating with the outside world but also as a form of punishment”.

Amnesty International called the punishment “cruel, inhuman and degrading”.

More than 700 other inmates are believed to be serving under 41-bis.

But it is Cospito’s case that has sparked a heated national debate and sparked a confrontation between Italy’s new right-wing government and the international anarchist movement uniting in Italy and around the world.

Thousands protest

Italian anarchists have regularly taken to the streets in recent months.

On Saturday, they set fire to 16 national postal system cars in Rome, claiming solidarity with Cospito on the 150th day of his hunger strike.

Hundreds of demonstrators also showed up at demonstrations in Rome and Milan. Crowd in Turin clashed with police. Graffiti has been scribbled on public buildings. Banners reading “Italy torture” have been unfurled over monuments in Rome and the Ponte Vecchio in Florence is one of the landmarks decorated.

Anarchists in solidarity with Cospito have also set fire to the cars of two Italian diplomats in Athens and Berlin, five cars belonging to a major telecom company in Rome and two police cars in Milan. No one was injured.

“The demonstrations should serve to raise awareness within the institutions,” said a union organizer who has highlighted the Cospito case, adding that “prisons should be a tool for rehabilitation, not ideological repression.”

They asked to remain anonymous for fear of being targeted by the police.

At a press conference in January, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani declared that “an international anarchist campaign against the Italian state was underway,” citing pro-Cospito demonstrations and vandalism in nine countries.

Among them, Italian diplomatic offices in Spain, Switzerland, Germany and Brazil had been vandalized and small explosives had been detonated in Bolivia.

Cospito’s fate has also divided politicians.

Italy’s far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her cabinet defend the verdict, while senators from the democratic and progressive parties visit Cospito in prison.

Opposition politicians have expressed concern about his health, but most are not calling for the sentence to be revoked.

In public editorials, politicians have argued that his sentence is arbitrary, irrational and dangerously close to torture.

In February, Cospito’s lawyer, Flavio Rossi Albertini, took the case to the Justice Department asking for a review in light of “new information,” but the Justice Minister ruled that he should remain in 41-bis.

Carlo Nordio, who is part of the new far-right government, said Cospito remains dangerous and his ability to “influence the anarcho-insurgent network” was “unchanged”.

Two weeks later, Cospito’s appeal to the Supreme Court was also rejected.

Albertini has since appealed to international legal bodies to review the case and has filed requests with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The UN High Commissioner has indicated that he is looking into the matter and has asked the Italian government for additional information. The ECtHR has yet to decide whether to proceed with it.

Looking ahead, a hearing will be held by the Constitutional Court on April 18 to review his accusation based on the 2006 attack on the police academy.

“Our legal efforts so far have not been successful, but we will not give up,” Albertini said, “including seeking international remedies.”

The latest from Cospito, from his doctor, is that his “spirit remains high” and “he is determined”.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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