Piazza Fontana bombing
|Piazza Fontana bombing|
Banca Nazionale dell'Agricoltura building, inside of which the terrorist bombing in Piazza Fontana was carried out on December 12, 1969. (Picture taken on December 12, 2007).
|Location||Piazza Fontana, Milan, Italy|
|Date||December 12, 1969
|Target||Banca Nazionale dell'Agricoltura|
|Mass murder, bombing|
|Perpetrators||Carlo Digilio (member of Ordine Nuovo), other unknown ON's members|
The Piazza Fontana Bombing (Italian: Strage di Piazza Fontana) was a terrorist attack that occurred on December 12, 1969, when a bomb exploded at the headquarters of Banca Nazionale dell'Agricoltura (National Agrarian Bank) in Piazza Fontana (some 200 metres from the Duomo) in Milan, Italy, killing 17 people and wounding 88. The same afternoon, three more bombs were detonated in Rome and Milan, and another was found unexploded.
Deaths of Giuseppe Pinelli and Luigi Calabresi
The Piazza Fontana bombing was initially attributed to anarchists. After over 80 arrests were made, suspect Giuseppe Pinelli (born in 1928), an anarchist railway worker, died after falling from the fourth floor window of the police station where he was being held. Serious discrepancies existed in the police account, which initially maintained that Pinelli had committed suicide by leaping from the window during a routine interrogation session. Murder charges against Luigi Calabresi (1937–72), one of the officers on duty at the time, and other police officials were acquitted by the prosecutor (giudice istruttore) Gerardo D'Ambrosio in 1975; he decided that Pinelli's fall had been caused by loss of consciousness ("malore").
In 1972 Calabresi was murdered by left-wing militants in revenge. Adriano Sofri and Giorgio Pietrostefani, former leaders of the far-left Lotta Continua, were sentenced for organizing, and members Ovidio Bompressi and Leonardo Marino were sentenced for carrying out Calabresi's assassination.
Official investigations and trials
Anarchist Pietro Valpreda was also arrested after a taxi driver, called Cornelio Rolandi, identified him as the suspicious-looking client he had taken to the bank that day. After his alibi was judged insufficient, he was held for three years in preventive detention before being sentenced for the crime. In 1987 he was acquitted by the supreme Court of Cassation for lack of evidence.
The far-right Neo-fascist organization Ordine Nuovo, founded by Pino Rauti, came under suspicion. On March 3, 1972, Franco Freda, Giovanni Ventura and Rauti were arrested and charged with planning the terrorist attacks of April 25, 1969 at the Trade Fair and Railway Station in Milan, and the August 8 and August 9, 1969 bombings of several trains, followed by the Piazza Fontana bombing.
Several elements brought the investigators to the theory that members of extreme right-wing groups were responsible for the bombings:
- The composition of the bombs used in Piazza Fontana was identical to that of the explosives that Ventura hid in a friend's home a few days after the attacks.
- The timers were traced to a stock of 50 Diehl Junghans timers bought on September 22, 1969 by Franco Freda in a Bologna store. Freda later explained that he bought the timers for Mohamed Selin Hamid, an alleged agent of Algerian secret services (whose existence has been denied by Algerian authorities), for the Palestinian resistance. Israel secret services declared that no timer of that kind has ever been used by Palestinian groups.
- The bags where the bombs were hidden had been bought a couple of days before the attacks in a shop in Padua, the city where Freda lived.
Main stages of the trial:
- Rome, 23 February 1972, the trial started. Main defendants: Pietro Valpreda and Mario Merlino. Ten days later, the process was moved to Milan for lack of territorial jurisdiction. Then it was transferred to Catanzaro for reasons of public order.
- Catanzaro, 18 March 1974, second trial. It was suspended after 30 days due to the inclusion of new defendants: Franco Freda and Giovanni Ventura.
- 27 January 1975, third trial. Co-defendants: anarchists and neo-fascists. After a year, new suspension: Defendant: Guido Giannettini (Italian secret agent).
- 18 January 1977, fourth trial. Defendants: anarchists, neo-fascists and SID.
- 23 February 1979, judgment: life imprisonment for Freda, Ventura and Giannettini. Acquitted: Valpreda and Merlino. Freda and Ventura were also sentenced in relation to the bombs placed in Padua and Milan from April to August 1969, while Valpreda and Merlino were sentenced to 4 ½ years for subversive association.
- Catanzaro, 22 May 1980, starts the appeal process.
- 20 March 1981, judgment of appeal: all defendants were acquitted. The Appeal Court confirmed the sentence for Freda and Ventura (15 years of jail) in relation to the bombs placed in Padua and Milan, and confirmed the sentences to Valpreda and Merlino for subversive association. The Prosecutor had asked for all the defendants to life in prison.
- 10 June 1982: the Supreme Court cancelled the judgment, acquitted Giannettini and ordered a new trial.
- Bari, 13 December 1984, new appeal trial. Defendants: Pietro Valpreda, Mario Merlino, Franco Freda and Giovanni Ventura.
- 1 August 1985, new judgment: all defendants were acquitted for lack of evidence. The Prosecutor had asked life imprisonment to Freda and Ventura, full acquittal to Valpreda, and acquittal for lack of evidence to Merlino.
- 27 January 1987: the Supreme Court confirmed the sentence.
The supreme Court of Cassation sentenced two members of the Italian secret services – General Gian Adelio Maletti (1 year of jail) and Captain Antonio Labruna (10 months) – to having misled the investigation and acquitted Marshal Gaetano Tanzilli, accused of perjury.
- Catanzaro, 26 October 1987, new trial. Neo-fascists defendants: Massimiliano Fachini and Stefano Delle Chiaie.
- 20 February 1989, judgment: the defendants were acquitted for not having committed the crime. The Prosecutor had asked life imprisonment to Delle Chiaie and acquittal for lack of evidence to Fachini.
- 5 July 1991: the Appeal Court in Catanzaro confirmed the acquittal to Stefano Delle Chiaie.
- Milan, 24 February 2000, new trial. Neo-fascists defendants: Delfo Zorzi, Carlo Maria Maggi (a physician), Carlo Digilio and Giancarlo Rognoni.
- 30 June 2001, judgment: life imprisonment for Delfo Zorzi, Carlo Maria Maggi and Giancarlo Rognoni. Carlo Digilio received immunity from prosecution in exchange for his information.
- Milan, 16 October 2003, starts the appeal trial.
- 12 March 2004, judgment of appeal: Zorzi and Maggi were acquitted for lack of evidence, Rognoni were acquitted for not having committed the crime.
- 3 May 2005: the Supreme Court confirmed the sentence.
Stefano Tringali, accused of abetting, benefited from the prescription after being sentenced to one year in prison in the appeal trial.
Digilio was declared an unreliable pentito by the Supreme Court, because he refused a "cathartic confession" in an attempt to "play a role of observer driven by a charge of intelligence", rejecting as "false" his "alleged affiliation with US services". The new track of the CIA, then, was a boomerang as well as the excess of investigative interviews with the Carabinieri, who are "provide data on explosives", then "dumped" by Digilio to the judge Guido Salvini. The Court found that in 1969 the Venetian group of Zorzi and Maggi organized the attacks, but it's not proven their participation in the massacre of December, 12. The Court certifies that Martino Siciliano (another Ordine Nuovo's pentito) attended to the assembly with Zorzi and Maggi in April 1969, in the library Ezzelino of Padua, where Freda announced the program of the train bombings. But since those bombs didn't kill nobody, it's not evidence the involvement of Zorzi and Maggi in the next subversive strategy of Freda and Ventura, and in the other acts of terrorism. The tragic events of December 12, 1969 didn't represent a loose cannon, but were the result of a subversive operation enrolled in a program subversive well settled.
Investigators have claimed that due to new witnesses they believe Freda and Ventura were involved in the terrorist attack. However the pair cannot be put on trial again as they were acquitted of the crime in 1987.
The Red Brigades conducted its own inquiry into the events. The results of this (and other) inquiries were found in a Red Brigades hideout in Robbiano di Mediglia (Italy) after a firefight with the Italian police (Carabinieri) on October 15, 1974. The records were kept secret until 2000, when the "Commissione Stragi" of the Italian Parliament, investigating terrorism during the presidency of Giovanni Pellegrino, uncovered it.
Political theories of responsibility for the bombing
A 2000 parliamentary report published by the Olive Tree coalition (an alliance of the Communist Party and the Democratic Party of the Left) claimed that "U.S. intelligence agents were informed in advance about several right-wing terrorist bombings, including the December 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing in Milan and the Piazza della Loggia bombing in Brescia five years later, but did nothing to alert the Italian authorities or to prevent the attacks from taking place." It also alleged that Pino Rauti (current leader of the MSI Fiamma-Tricolore party), a journalist and founder of the far-right Ordine Nuovo (New Order) subversive organization, received regular funding from a press officer at the U.S. embassy in Rome. "So even before the 'stabilising' plans that Atlantic circles had prepared for Italy became operational through the bombings, one of the leading members of the subversive right was literally in the pay of the American embassy in Rome", the report says.
Paolo Emilio Taviani, the Christian Democrat co-founder of Gladio (NATO's stay-behind anti-Communist organization in Italy), told investigators that the SID military intelligence service was about to send a senior officer from Rome to Milan to prevent the bombing, but decided to send a different officer from Padua in order to put the blame on left-wing anarchists. Taviani also alleged in an August 2000 interview to Il Secolo XIX newspaper: "It seems to me certain, however, that agents of the CIA were among those who supplied the materials and who muddied the waters of the investigation."
- Giovanni Arnoldi
- Giulio China
- Eugenio Corsini
- Pietro Dendena
- Carlo Gaiani
- Calogero Galatioto
- Carlo Garavaglia
- Paolo Gerli
- Luigi Meloni
- Vittorio Mocchi
- Gerolamo Papetti
- Mario Pasi
- Carlo Perego
- Oreste Sangalli
- Angelo Scaglia
- Carlo Silva
- Attilio Valè
- Terrorism in the European Union
- Years of lead (Italy)
- Accidental Death of an Anarchist
- La notte della Repubblica (TV programme)
- Piazza Fontana: The Italian Conspiracy
- (Italian) "Commissione Stragi"
- (Italian) Inquiry of the Red Brigades
- Digilio, became Pentito in the 1990s, confessed to have built the bomb exploded in the bank.
- "1969: Deadly bomb blasts in Italy". BBC News. December 12. Retrieved April 2006. Check date values in:
- "Né omicidio né suicidio: Pinelli cadde perché colto da malore", La Stampa, October 29, 1975 (Italian).
- "Definitive le condanne per Sofri e gli altri", Corriere della Sera, January 23, 1997 (Italian).
- Indro Montanelli and Mario Cervi, L'Italia degli anni di piombo 1965-1978, Rizzoli, 1991 (Italian).
- "STRAGE DI PIAZZA FONTANA AZZERATI 17 ANNI DI INDAGINI", la Repubblica, January 28, 1987 (Italian).
- Sergio Zavoli, La notte della Repubblica, Nuova Eri, 1992 (Italian).
- "Ergastolo a Freda, Ventura e Giannettini, colpevoli della strage di piazza Fontana", La Stampa, February 24, 1979 (Italian).
- "Si torna a cercare la verità sulla strage di piazza Fontana", La Stampa, May 23, 1980 (Italian).
- "Quel tragico 12 dicembre 1969 Chi mise la bomba nella banca?", Stampa Sera, March 20, 1981 (Italian).
- "Tutti fuori, neri e rossi", il Giornale nuovo, March 21, 1981 (Italian).
- "Catanzaro: anche per Valpreda l'accusa chiederà l'ergastolo", La Stampa, December 13, 1980 (Italian).
- "UNA STRAGE SENZA COLPEVOLI", la Repubblica, August 2, 1985 (Italian).
- "ERGASTOLO A FREDA E VENTURA VOLLERO LA STRAGE DI MILANO", la Repubblica, July 12, 1985 (Italian).
- "PIETRO VALPRESA E' INNOCENTE NON MISE LA BOMBA NELLA BANCA", la Repubblica, July 13, 1985 (Italian).
- "LE PROVE NON BASTANO PER CONDANNARE MERLINO DUE ANNI A MALETTI", la Repubblica, July 16, 1985 (Italian).
- "DELLE CHIAIE E' TORNATO LIBERO", la Repubblica, February 21, 1989 (Italian).
- "Tre ergastoli per la strage di piazza Fontana", Corriere della Sera, July 1, 2001 (Italian).
- "Processo d' appello per la strage I familiari: «La città ci aiuti»", Corriere della Sera, October 14, 2003 (Italian).
- "Piazza Fontana, l' appello cancella gli ergastoli", Corriere della Sera, March 13, 2004 (Italian).
- "Ultima sentenza sulla strage: neofascisti assolti", Corriere della Sera, May 4, 2005 (Italian).
- "Freda e Ventura erano colpevoli", Corriere della Sera, June 11, 2005 (Italian).
- US 'supported anti-left terror in Italy', The Guardian, June 24, 2000.
- Paolo Emilio Taviani, obituary by Philip Willan, in The Guardian, June 21, 2001.
- La notte della Repubblica - Piazza Fontana from Rai.Tv (Italian)
- On this day from BBC news December 12, 1969