19 April 2006

Alert

Crime journalist critical of official investigation into murder case detained, faces defamation charges


Incident details

Mario Spezi

journalist(s)

(CPJ/IFEX) -The following is a CPJ letter to President Berlusconi:

The Honorable Silvio Berlusconi
President of the Council of Ministers
Presidenza del Consiglio dei ministri
Palazzo Chigi
Piazza Colonna 370
00186 Roma
Italia
Via Facsimile: 011 39 066 7793169

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending the rights of journalists worldwide, is deeply concerned about the fate of Mario Spezi, a veteran crime journalist imprisoned in the central Italian city of Perugia.

Officers with the Florence headquarters of the special police unit for investigating serial crimes, Gruppo Investigativo Delitti Seriali (GIDES), headed by Michele Giuttari, arrested Spezi, a freelancer for the Florence-based daily La Nazione, at his Florence home on April 7 on the order of Giuliano Mignini, public prosecutor of Perugia. Spezi was transferred the same day to Capanne Prison in Perugia, where he remains, according to local and international press reports and CPJ sources.

Mignini filed a request with the preliminary investigation judge of Perugia, Marina De Robertis, to invoke a rarely used law under Italy's criminal code to deny Spezi access to a lawyer for five days, Spezi's lawyer, lessandro Traversi, told CPJ. The law is typically applied to the most dangerous criminals, yet Judge De Robertis authorized the measure, and for five days Spezi was denied legal counsel and held incommunicado.

Spezi, 60, a journalist for 30 years, had for two decades been investigating the serial murders of eight couples in Tuscany. He had written articles in the Italian press, appeared on television shows to speak about his investigation into the murders, and co-authored a non-fiction book on the killings with U.S. journalist and writer Douglas Preston.

The Tuscany killings, which took place between 1968 and 1985, triggered a long and costly criminal probe, which is still open. The murders were especially cruel, with female victims missing some of their body parts. Pietro Pacciani, a farm worker, was tried in 1994 on charges of committing seven of the eight double-murders. Known as the "Monster of Florence," he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. An appeals court, however, overturned Pacciani's sentence in 1996, and ordered that he be retried. While awaiting a second trial, Pacciani died in 1998 of what authorities said were natural causes. Two more suspects are now serving jail terms for alleged involvement in several of the murders, according to The Associated Press.

Spezi's wife, Miriam, told CPJ that authorities showed no warrant when they took her husband on April 7, nor did they explain why or where they were taking him. News reports say the journalist is now under criminal investigation for allegedly defaming Perugia prosecutors through the media, attempting to sidetrack an official murder probe by planning to plant evidence, and involvement in the 1985 alleged murder of a Florentine doctor.

These are very serious allegations, whose substance and supporting evidence should be clarified and made public. Authorities in Perugia have not done so, and Spezi remains in jail for a 12th consecutive day. On April 14, Judge De Robertis refused to grant a defense motion to release Spezi during the investigation, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Spezi's lawyer, Alessandro Traversi, told CPJ that he is planning to file another motion seeking his client's release. "The prosecution has given no substantive explanation and evidence of my client's alleged guilt," Traversi said.

CPJ research and interviews with Italian journalists, some of whom asked to remain anonymous for fear of official retaliation, show a pattern of official harassment against Spezi in connection with his investigation of the "Monster of Florence" case.



Source

Committee to Protect Journalists
330 7th Ave., 11th Floor
New York, NY 10001
USA
info (@) cpj.org
Fax:+1 212 4659568
Italy
 
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