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Italian police officers jailed over the death of Stefano Cucchi

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Italian police officers jailed over the death of Stefano Cucchi
The Italian Court of Cassation in Rome. Photo: AFP
15:26 CET+01:00
Two Carabinieri officers were found guilty of the involuntary manslaughter of Stefano Cucchi in 2009, in a harrowing case of police brutality that shocked Italy and the world.

The officers were sentenced on Thursday to 12 years in jail after being found guilty of the fatal beating that led to Cucchi's death, Italian media reported.

Alessio di Bernardo and Raffaele d’Alessandro, members of the Italian military police unit, were found guilty of the charge of omicidio preterintenzionale, or involuntary manslaughter, in the case of Stefano Cucchi, who was arrested on a minor drugs charge in a Rome park in October 2009.

A week later, Cucchi was found dead in his room at Rome’s Sandro Pertini hospital, where he had been taken for treatment for injuries which including two fractured vertebrae and a broken jaw.

The already slight Cucchi weighed just 37 kilos when he died, and photos taken by his family of his emaciated and battered body in the morgue left Italians reeling with shock.

The ruling comes after his sister Ilaria's long fight for justice, as she tried to establish who was responsible for her brother's death nearly a decade ago but repeatedly came up against a wall of silence from Italian authorities.

Ilaria and Stefano Cucchi before his death in police custody. Photo: Ilaria Cucchi/Facebook

In October 2014, a judge acquitted the officers due to a lack of evidence.

But Italy’s court of cassation, its supreme court in Rome, reopened the case in December 2015 and a new trial began. The turning point came in October 218, when one of the police officers being investigated began to collaborate with prosecutors, and confessing the details of the killing.

Francesco Tedesco – who was also charged with the murder of Cucchi but cleared of wrongdoing on Thursday – told a courtroom in Rome that his colleagues had kicked and punched Cucchi in the face, causing his death.

Tedesco claimed he had been threatened by officials and warned to keep quiet and conceal a report about the incident.

“I apologise to the Cucchi family,” Tedesco told the court at the time. “The last few years have been an insurmountable wall for me. It was not easy to inform against my colleagues.”

Following the sentencing, Caribinieri commander general Giovanni Nistri spoke of his “deep sorrow” over “the events culminating in the death of Stefano Cucchi. A pain that today is even more intense after the sentence... that defines the responsibility of some carabinieri who failed in their duty, thereby disregarding the fundamental values ​of the institution.”

Cucchi's story became known worldwide after a 2018 Netflix film based on his story, On My Skin, won three David di Donatello awards, the Italian equivalent of the Oscars.

Speaking after the ruling on Friday, Ilaria Cucchi told local media: “Stefano was killed. We knew that and we’ve been repeating it for 10 years. Now perhaps my brother can rest in peace.”

People hold candles in honour of Stefano Cucchi at a demonstration in front of Rome's Supreme Council of Judiciary in 2014. Photo: AFP

 
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