7,000 Italians wrongfully imprisoned each year: report

The arrest of innocent people has cost the Italian state €11 million in the first three months of 2016.

7,000 Italians wrongfully imprisoned each year: report
Italy's Court of Cassation building. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

About 7,000 Italians are unjustly imprisoned or put under house arrest each year, only a quarter of whom receive any compensation, according to figures from organization Articolo 643, which represents victims of wrongful imprisonment.

Some €11 million in reparations were paid out by the Italian government to 434 people, just in the first three months of this year alone. Those who received the reparations had been jailed or placed under house arrest and were later acquitted.

Since 1992, the Treasury has coughed up €620 million in compensation, awarded to almost 25,000 victims of unjust imprisonment. Many of the cases were linked to convictions of mafia involvement, according to a report in La Stampa.

A further 122 people were compensated for “judiciary errors”.

Beniamino Migliucci, president of the Italian Association of Criminal Lawyers, has started a petition for a constitutional amendment to be presented for a public vote in October.

“We need to remember the presumption of innocence,” he said.

The National Association of Magistrates meanwhile has mooted the idea of using undercover police officers to see how public administrators react to receiving a bribe, in order to reduce the number of wrongful convictions.

Earlier in April, the state paid €6.5 million to Giuseppe Gulotta, who was jailed for 22 years after being falsely accused of the murder of two police officers in a case known as the “Alcamo Marina slaughter” before being acquitted of all charges in 2012.

In 2007, one of the investigators who had worked on the case admitted to having extracted Gulotta’s confession under torture.

Gulotta's lawyers hope to take the case to Italy’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, to ask for €56 million.

However, Mauro Palma, Italy's representative for the rights of prisoners, pointed out that the UK for example has no law offering compensation to the wrongly imprisoned, whereas other European countries have either similar or less generous systems than Italy, despite a similar number of wrongful imprisonments.

Palma told La Stampa that he thought a common law reform would be a good idea, “because the judge cannot live under the sword of Damocles, especially in a country where the mafia generally have very smart and very expensive lawyers”.

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Italy’s president calls for ‘full truth’ on anniversary of Bologna bombing

President Sergio Mattarella said on Tuesday it was the state's duty to shed more light on the 1980 bombing of Bologna's train station, on the 42nd anniversary of the attack that killed 85 people and injured 200.

Italy's president calls for 'full truth' on anniversary of Bologna bombing

On August 2nd 1980, a bomb exploded in the railway station’s waiting room, causing devastation on an unprecedented scale.

Five members of terrorist groups were later convicted in relation to the bombing, the worst episode in Italy’s ‘Years of Lead’ period of political violence in the 1970s and 80s.

Most recently, in 2020, a former member of the far-right Armed Revolutionary Nucleus (NAR) was sentenced to life imprisonment for providing logistical support to those who carried out the attack.

But suspicions remain of cover-ups and the involvement of “deviant elements” within the nation’s security services, reported Italian news agency Ansa.

READ ALSO: Bologna massacre: 40 years on, questions remain over Italy’s deadliest postwar terror attack

“The bomb that killed people who happened to be at the station on that morning 42 years ago still reverberates with violence in the depths of the country’s conscience,” Mattarella said in a speech marking the anniversary on Tuesday.

“It was the act of cowardly men of unequalled inhumanity, one of the most terrible of the history of the Italian Republic.

A train compartment at Bologna station pictured following the 1980 bombing attributed to the neo-fascist terrorist organization Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari.

“It was a terrorist attack that sought to destabilise democratic institutions and sow fear, hitting ordinary citizens going about their everyday tasks.

“On the day of the anniversary our thoughts go, above all, to the relatives forced to suffer the greatest pain.

“The neo-fascist nature of the massacre has been established in court and further steps have been made to unveil the cover-ups and those who ordered the attack in order to comply with the Republic’s duty to seek the full truth”.

The bombing remains Western Europe’s fourth deadliest postwar terror attack, and one of the most devastating in Italy’s history.