Adriano Sofri

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Adriano Sofri

Adriano Sofri (Trieste, 1 August 1942) is an Italian intellectual, a journalist and a writer. Former leader of the autonomist movement Lotta Continua ("Continuous Struggle"') in the 1960s, he was arrested in 1988 and sentenced to 22 years of prison, having been found guilty of instigating the murder of police officer Luigi Calabresi. Sofri, and the others comrades convicted with him, have always proclaimed their innocence. The charges against them rested on the testimony of a pentito ("collaborator of justice"), Leonardo Marino. While in prison, Sofri wrote for various newspapers, such as Il Foglio, La Repubblica, and Panorama.


Adriano Sofri was born 1 August 1942 in Trieste.

Calabresi murder[edit]

On 12 December 1969 a bomb exploded at the Piazza Fontana in Milan. Among those brought in for questioning was militant anarchist Giuseppe Pinelli. On 15 December 1969, while in police custody Pinelli fell from a fourth floor window of the police building in Milan. The policemen present in the interrogation room claimed that Pinelli committed suicide, but many leftist circles believed him to have been murdered. An initial investigation in 1970 ruled Pinelli's death an accident. (A subsequent inquiry in 1975 concurred, holding that Pinelli had fainted due to an "active illness").

Despite the fact that it was established that Calabresi had not been in the room at the time of Pinelli's death,[1] he became the target of an extensive media campaign led by the Lotta Continua newspaper and the weekly L'Espresso because of his alleged involvement in Pinelli's death. On 15 December 1969, the Lotta Continua newspaper directed by Sofri explicitly claimed that Calabresi had to be "shot dead". The press campaign against Calabresi continued for the next two years.

On the morning of 17 May 1972 Calabresi was shot and killed outside his home. Members of Lotta Continua were considered to be the prime suspects.


In July 1988, Leonardo Marino, an ex-activist confessed to taking part in the assassination of Calabresi. Marino claimed that he was driving the car, while Ovidio Bompressi allegedly shot Calabresi. He said that the assassination had been decided by Adriano Sofri and Giorgio Pietrostefani, the leaders of Lotta Continua. Based on testimony provided by Marino, on 28 July 1988, Sofri was arrested with Ovidio Bompressi and Giorgio Pietrostefani for the murder of police officer Luigi Calabresi on 17 May 1972.[1]


In the long series of trials, that spanned about two decades and that alternated acquittals with sentences of guilt, the evidence against Sofri was only the confession of pentito ("collaborator of justice") Leonardo Marino, who accused Sofri of having ordered him, as chief of Lotta Continua, to assassinate Calabresi, during a meeting held on a piazza after a demonstration in Pisa on 13 May 1972, in the name of Franco Serantini, an anarchist who died from lack of care in the police station following a demonstration in the same city on May 5.

Sofri denied having talked with Marino at this alleged meeting, pointing out that on this day, it was pouring rain, and that the town was under surveillance by the police. This was confirmed by other participants of the demonstration.

Sofri was convicted on 2 May 1990 and sentenced to serve 22 years in the prison of Pisa . Pietrostefani and Bompressi also received 22 years, while Marino was sentenced to 11 years.


By the time the appeals process begins various pieces of evidence are no longer available. The clothes which Calabresi was wearing on the day of his death were never found. The blue Fiat 125 (which Marino declared beige) was put to the breaker's yard on 31 December 1988. The bullet which killed Calabresi was put to auction on 15 April 1990, after a flood which had damaged the office holding the material evidence of the case.[2]

In July 1991, the Court of Appeals upheld the convictions,[1] but this was reverted the following year by the Court of Cassation. Sofri and others were acquitted in 1993. However, after the Cassation's cancellation of the previous judgment, a new trial took place, and they were convicted, again, to 22 years of prison, in 1995 — (Sofri, Marino and others were also accused of armed robberies). The Court of Cassation confirmed this last judgment in 1997. Pietrostefani, was residing in France with and no chances of being extradited.

Marino initially claimed that the weight of his conscience had pushed him to confess his crimes, which he allegedly had done on 19 July 1988 to the carabinieri in Ameglia, a little town, before going to Milan where he allegedly described with precision the assassination of Calabresi — remaining before to general facts — to Ferdinando Pomarici, substitute of the attorney, and investigative magistrate Antonio Lombardi. However, on 20 February 1990, two years after the beginning of the trial, a witness of the Court, carabinieri officer Emilio Rossi, declared that Marino had first presented himself to the carabinieris in Ameglia on 2 July 1988. Although historian Carlo Ginzburg has interrogated himself on the possibility that Marino's contact with the carabinieri were to be traced to May, in any cases, the judicial documents did not register this period during which Marino was in contact with the Italian authorities.[3]

A lot of other discrepancies in Marino's testimony against Sofri have led many to suspect the reliability of his words, on which Sofri's sentence exclusively relies. These include his first account, where he claimed that Bompressi and Sofri ordered him the assassination, whether that later became only Sofri; his description of the itinerary that he allegedly followed immediately after the crime, during which he said he had gone in the exact opposite direction of where the Fiat had been finally abandoned; confusion about when his qualms of conscience came to arise, as soon as 1972 or in "the last three years"; the fact that he had been convicted for armed robbery on 1987, thus making his claims about his moral concerns dubious [4]...

Furthermore, the description of the crime scene by eyewitnesses contradicted those of Leonardo Marino. But the Cour d'assise of Milan, headed by the president Manlio Minale, finally decided that Marino's testimony was completely reliable, which was allegedly not the case of those various eyewitnesses invoked during the trial.

On the other hand, it has to be noticed that Marino's confession was given so much time after the facts that some contradictions are somewhat unavoidable.

In favor of Sofri, there was a large opinion movement, including politicians, intellectuals and artists, including Dario Fo, Giuliano Ferrara, Gad Lerner, Luigi Ciotti,[5] Walter Veltroni, Piero Fassino, judge Ferdinando Imposimato,[6][7] Marco Pannella,[8] Vasco Rossi, Adriano Celentano, Jovanotti, Gianna Nannini, Paolo Hendel, Emmanuelle Béart, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán,[9] Vittorio Sgarbi,[10] Francesco Tullio Altan, Niccolò Ammaniti, Stefano Benni, Gianni Vattimo, Andrea Zanzotto, Franco Battiato, Lucio Dalla, Fabrizio De André, Bernardo Bertolucci, Fabio Fazio, Gillo Pontecorvo, Gabriele Salvatores and Massimo Cacciari.[11]


The convictions were upheld in 2000. Sofri has always maintained his innocence and continues to do so to this day. He has become a columnist writing for Il Foglio and La Repubblica. He also writes editorials in Panorama.

At the end of November, 2005, Adriano Sofri suffered Boerhaave syndrome while in jail. He was moved to a hospital and was considered for a pardon, but Justice Minister Roberto Castelli refused in December 2005 to grant one. However, after the defeat of the Silvio Berlusconi government during the April 2006 election, the new Justice Minister, Clemente Mastella, announced that Sofri could be pardoned before the end of the calendar year, although he continued to refuse to ask for a pardon, saying such a request would be admission of guilt. The Justice Minister nonetheless argued that "The truth is that 34 years after the events Sofri is a very sick person to whom one can offer a spontaneously humane gesture."[12] He did not receive a pardon, but from 2007 he was allowed to serve his sentence under house arrest for medical reasons. The 22-year sentence ended in January 2012.[13]

Carlo Ginzburg, who usually studies witch-hunts during the Inquisition and microhistory, has written a book concerning this alleged "miscarriage of justice" and the relations, and differences, between the works of a judge and of a historian.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Dell'Arti, Giorgio. "Adriano Sofri", Corriere Della Sera, 19 September 2014
  2. ^ Carlo Ginzburg, The Judge and the Historian: Marginal Notes on a Late Twentieth-Century Miscarriage of Justice, Chapter XIV (ISBN 1-85984-371-9)
  3. ^ Ginzburg, chap. VII
  4. ^ Ginzburg, chap. XV
  5. ^ Il caso Sofri, Bompressi, Pietrostefani
  6. ^ Sofri, Imposimato (SDI): Violati i principi del giusto processo
  7. ^ Ferdinando Imposimato, L'errore giudiziario: aspetti giuridici e casi pratici, Giuffré, 2008, pag. 106-108
  8. ^ La grazia a Sofri: il digiuno di Pannella
  9. ^ Luca Telese, Ora Sofri è solo
  10. ^ Vittorio Sgarbi, Saddam nel tombino e Sofri
  11. ^ Centomila firme per Sofri "Giustizia spietata"
  12. ^ "Sofri: Mastella, Pardon Within the Year", 30 May 2006, Agenzia Giornalistica Italia (English)
  13. ^ "Ex-militant and writer Sofri ends jail term". ANSA English. 16 January 2012. 


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