Giuseppe Pinelli

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Giuseppe Pinelli
The new memorial tag in memory of Giuseppe Pinelli, as of opposed to the old one which is also still there

Giuseppe "Pino" Pinelli (21 October 1928 – 15 December 1969[1]) was an Italian railroad worker and anarchist, who died while being detained by Italian police in 1969.[2] Pinelli was a member of the Milan-based Anarchist association named "Ponte della Ghisolfa". He was also the secretary of the Italian branch of the Anarchist Black Cross. His death, believed by many to have been caused by members of the police,[3] inspired Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo to write his famous play titled Accidental Death of an Anarchist.[4]

Early life[edit]

Pinelli was born to Alfredo Pinelli and Rosa Malacarne.[1] His family was working-class in one of the poorest areas of post WWI Milan. Although he had to work many low income jobs, such as waiter and warehouseman,[1] in order to make ends meet, he nonetheless found the time to read many books and become politically active throughout his youth.[1] Among other political activities, he also worked with the anarchist group which published the weekly paper Il Libertario.[2]

In 1954 he found work as a railroad fitter. In 1955 he married Licia Rognini, whom he had met at an evening class of Esperanto.[2]

During the 1960s he continued anarchist activism. He organized young anarchists in the Gioventu Libertaria (Libertarian Youth) in 1962.[1] He helped found the "Sacco and Vanzetti anarchist association" in 1965. He founded the Ponte della Ghisolfa association (named after the nearby bridge) in 1968.[1]

Suspicious circumstances surrounding his death[edit]

On 12 December 1969 a bomb went off at the Piazza Fontana in Milan that killed 13 people and injured 100.[5] Pinelli was picked up, along with other anarchists, for questioning regarding the attack.[2] Just before midnight on 15 December 1969, Pinelli was seen to fall to his death from a fourth floor window of the Milan police station.[6] Three police officers interrogating Pinelli, including Commissioner Luigi Calabresi, were put under investigation in 1971 for his death, but legal proceedings concluded it was due to accidental causes.[7]

The investigation of the President Carlo Biotti[edit]

On the death of Giuseppe Pinelli opened an initial investigation. During the trial, which began on Oct. 9, 1970 thousands of people inside and outside the court in Milan, where he was the Judge President of the Court of Milan Carlo Biotti,[8][9][10] interrogation of witnesses about the death of Pinelli had some discrepancies that led the Public Prosecutor to reopen the case Pinelli sending a "notice of offense" to the witnesses and to Calabresi.[11] About this process Francesco Leonetti made the documentary " Political Process ," with the help of Arnaldo Pomodoro and the photograph of Carla Cerati.[12]

The President of the Court of Milan Carlo Biotti ordered the exhumation of the body and its autopsy,[13] continuing on its decision to give up his salary and any personal interest,[14] shortly after it was dismissed for the trial,[15] then suspended from any function, and finally in a short time wrongly accused of verbal revelation of official secrets (claiming that he had already communicated to others his belief in judgment), first with disciplinary proceedings and then with a criminal trial,[16] he resigned his office, and starting a process first disciplinary and then penalty which lasted seven years. "A little episode is indicative of the climate of those days: Biotti went to the movies theatre and recognized by the public, was long loudly applauded" .[17] The magistrate went on for many years a long legal battle that acquitted him of all charges in every court, shaking terribly his family, supporting him in criminal trials and received threats of any kind, until shortly before his death.[18] The charges, then completely denied, born without any evidentiary supports ,[19] for years at the center of a fiery international media campaign, guilty for the fake accusation of revelation of office secrecy and to have anticipated, in a private interview, his conviction already determined on the judgment that the President Biotti provided in confidence to the opponent defensive Lawyer Michele Lener in Milan. In support of the prosecution against the President Carlo Biotti was decisive, that at the daily end of a trial session, the President Biotti give the hand to a alleged offender of defamation, Pio Baldelli (he warned that would miss the next hearing), and President Biotti "uses always tighten the hands of those who gave it to him'.[20] Shortly after the acquittal of all charges in all levels of courts with full formula, he died of heart failure.

Pinelli's name has since been cleared,[6] and the far-right Ordine Nuovo was accused of the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing[5] (in 2001, three neo-fascists were convicted,[21] a sentence overturned in March 2004;[5] a fourth defendant, Carlo Digilio, was a suspected CIA informant who became a witness for the state and received immunity from prosecution).[21]

Calabresi was later killed by two shots from a revolver outside his home in 1972.[22] In 1988, former Lotta Continua leader Adriano Sofri was arrested with Ovidio Bompressi and Giorgio Pietrostefani for Calabresi's murder.[23] The charges against them were based on testimony provided, 16 years later, by Leonardo Marino, an ex-militant who confessed to the murder of Calabresi, under order from Adriano Sofri.[1] Claiming his innocence, Sofri was finally convicted after a highly contentious trial, in 1997.[24]

Cultural references[edit]

Pinelli's death is the inspiration for:

  • The painting "Funeral Of The Anarchist Pinelli" by Italian artist Enrico Baj.[2]
  • The political documentary film 12 dicembre (1972) directed by Giovanni Bonfanti and based on an idea by Pier Paolo Pasolini.[25]
  • The song "Ballata per l'Anarchico Pinelli".[26]
  • The popular song "La ballata del Pinelli".[27]


  1. ^ Italian justice has used a system of [state witnesses] "collaboratori di giustizia-collaborators with justice" to fight against terrorism and the mafia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Giuseppe 'Pino' Pinelli (1928-1969): the 17th victim of the Piazza Fontana bombing". Kate Sharpley Library. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Pinelli, Giuseppe "Pino", 1928-1969". November 9, 2006. 
  3. ^ "Italy from the 1960s". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 17 July 2011. 
  4. ^ Fleury, Matthew (1985). "Dario Fo". Bomb Magazine, New Art Publications. Retrieved 5 March 2013. The events upon which the play is based took place in 1969. A bomb exploded in the center of Milan, near the Duomo. Sixteen died. The police blamed the anarchists, one of whom, Giovanni Pinelli, they seized. Later on he was thrown from a window at police headquarters. There is considerable evidence that Pinelli’s death was murder, not an accident as the police claimed, so the title Accidental Death of an Anarchist, is ironic. We are sure it was not an accident . . . . It was murder . . . . But this is the official police characterization of the event. The case was filed as an “accidental death.” 
  5. ^ a b c "1969: Deadly bomb blasts in Italy". BBC. 
  6. ^ a b Bohlen, Celestine (26 September 1997). "Dispute in Italy Is Conjuring Up Its Terrorist Past". New York Times. p. 2. Retrieved 5 April 2009. 
  7. ^ "Né omicidio né suicidio: Pinelli cadde perché colto da malore". La Stampa. 29 October 1975.
  8. ^ Il Presidente del Tribunale Biotti era convinto che Pinelli non si fosse buttato spontaneamente dalla finestra e ordinò la riesumazione della salma per una nuova autopsia, Franco Contorbia, Giornalismo italiano, Volume 4, A. Mondadori, 2009
  9. ^ Panorama, Edizioni 498-506, Mondadori, 1975
  10. ^ Adalberto Baldoni, Sandro Provvisionato, Anni di piombo, Sperling & Kupfer, 2009
  11. ^ Appunti per un glossario della recente storia nazionale (Sen. Athos De Luca) in Commissione parlamentare d'inchiesta sul terrorismo in Italia e sulle cause della mancata individuazione dei responsabili delle stragi, Doc. XXIII n. 64 Volume Primo Tomo IV
  12. ^ Cinema in La meglio gioventù Accadde in Italia 1965-1975 (Diario 5 Dic. 2003, Anno II, n.5)
  13. ^ Giornalismo Italiano di Franco Contorbia, Mondadori 2009
  14. ^ "Altro rinvio per la perizia su Pinelli...posizione del CSM sul caso Biotti" L'Unità, 19 giugno 1971
  15. ^ Giovanni De Luna, "Le ragioni di un decennio. 1969-1979. Militanza, violenza, sconfitta, memoria", la ricusazione venne accolta il giorno 27 maggio 1971
  16. ^ il fatto è riportato da "Il Giornale" del giorno 11 settembre 1977, il Presidente Biotti, 7 anni più tardi, fu assolto con formula piena in primo e secondo grado e la sentenza fu confermata nel giugno dello stesso anno anche in Cassazione, circa due mesi dopo l'assoluzione fu colpito da arresto cardiaco sul molo di Alassio
  17. ^ Aldo Gianulli, "a inchiostro", Bur Rizzoli, 2013
  18. ^ Camilla Cederna, "Pinelli. Una finestra sulla strage"
  19. ^ Epoca, Vol.22,"L'istanza con cui l'Avvocato Michele ha ottenuto la ricusazione del Presidente Biotti conferma la grave crisi della giustizia: la politicizzazione della magistratura trasforma ormai molti processi in un gioco d'azzardo," 1971
  20. ^ "Pinelli. Una finestra sulla strage" by Camilla Cederna
  21. ^ a b "Three jailed for 1969 Milan bomb". The Guardian. July 1, 2001. Retrieved January 16, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Assassinato per strada il commissario Calabresi". La Stampa. 17 May 1972.
  23. ^ Sasso, Cinzia (1 August 1988). "UN 'CASSIERE' RACCOGLIEVA ARMI E DENARO DELLE RAPINE". la Repubblica. Archived from the original on 17 January 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 
  24. ^ Foschini, Paolo (23 January 1997). "Definitive le condanne per Sofri e gli altri". Corriere della Sera. Archived from the original on 17 January 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 
  25. ^ "12 dicembre". IMDB. 
  26. ^ Nawrocki, Norman. Cazzarola!: Anarchy, Romani, Love, Italy (A Novel). PM Press. p. 172. ISBN 9781604863154. 
  27. ^ "La ballata del Pinelli". antiwar songs. 

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