The health of a convicted Italian anarchist who has been on hunger strike for weeks has reportedly worsened, prompting the transfer of his case to a jail in Milan. In an effort to get Alfredo Cospito, 55, better treatment in prison, his supporters have resorted to torching cars and threatening authorities. For over a hundred days, Cospito has flat out refused to eat. The new rules only allow for one monitored visit from family members per month and one monitored phone call per month, previously reserved for mafia bosses.
Following the murders of judges Paolo Falcone and Giovanni Borsellino in 1992, the Italian government implemented new restrictions on inmates known as 41bis, named after an article of the Italian criminal code, with the goal of isolating Mafia bosses from the outside world and other inmates and preventing them from issuing criminal orders from behind bars.
Now, however, people convicted of crimes as diverse as terrorism, tobacco smuggling, and kidnapping can be subjected to the harsh 41bis prison regime. Critics of the 41bis, including ex-inmates who endured it, say the isolation inmates must endure is “unbearable” and that cells are barely large enough to fit a bed.
Inmates are only allowed one monitored visit per month from loved ones, have no access to the prison’s communal areas, are under constant surveillance, and spend their one hour of recess per day in isolation. The 41bis has been described as “a mediaeval form of punishment” by some legal scholars.
Nadia Lioce, a far-left terrorist who has been living under the 41bis regime for two decades, has only been able to interact with people for a total of 15 hours in the span of a year, according to her attorneys. Lawyers for Lioce reportedly told the Italian press that she is “psychologically isolated” to the point where she cannot hold conversations with her family for more than a few minutes, even when they visit.
In 2007, a US court refused to extradite a convicted Mafia drug trafficker on the grounds that the 41bis regime he would face in Italy would have “constituted torture.” Amnesty International and the European Court of Human Rights have also criticised various aspects of the 41bis.
Cospito is currently serving two life sentences in prison: ten for a 2012 gun attack on the CEO of a nuclear engineering firm in Genoa, and twenty for bomb attacks against a Carabinieri police school in Fossano, which he planned from behind bars. His girlfriend is also in jail for various crimes.
On Monday, he was transferred from a prison in Sardinia to the Opera prison in Milan, Italy, a facility for inmates who require intensive medical care. He has lost over 40 kilogrammes (6.2 stone) due to his hunger strike, but the government has still refused to release him from prison. The Italian government, led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, has stated that it will not be cowed by the threats of violence.
The recent wave of violence and vandalism, Justice Minister Carlo Nordio said on Tuesday, “would tend to justify maintaining the 41bis” because it shows that a link continues to exist between Cospito and other anarchists. Attacks on Italian diplomats in Germany, Spain, and Greece as well as South America were part of protests against his detention. Bullets have been included in threatening letters sent to authorities.
Senior diplomat Susanna Schlein’s car was destroyed by a petrol bomb in Athens in early December, making it the most serious attack. More incidents involving the arson of vehicles were reported Monday night in both Rome and Milan. Cospito’s case will be heard by Italy’s highest court in March.