Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Recent sources of tension between Italy and the United States

by de Gondi Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 04:09:50 AM EST

Tension between the Italy and its partner has reached water head on a number of fronts. The judiciary branch continues to pursue its autonomous course both in the Abu Omar kidnapping case as well as the Calipari assassination. The latter case had the political backing of the Ministers of Justice of both the Prodi and Berlusconi governments while the Abu Omar case continues to be held in a political limbo by the Prodi government.

At the same time what appears to be normal but heated dialectics within the governing coalition over Italy's presence in Afghanistan has been the object of an "irritual" diplomatic letter by the US Ambassador Ronald Spoglio together with the other five members of the so-called "coalition of the willing"  that unilaterally invaded Iraq (England, Canada, Australia, Romania, Holland). The six representatives of the Iraqi invasion intimated that Italy should stick to its obligations in Afghanistan. "Peace-keeping" in Afghanistan is mandated by the UN through NATO forces, not by a self-contrived "coalition of the willing."

From the diaries ~ whataboutbob

Vicenza, Afhganistan

The matter would have been put to rest had not Condi Rice publicly backed Mr. Spoglio's initiative. The entire matter has become grist for opposition broadsides and has put Prodi's government in a no-gain situation. Whatever action the government may take in parliament to refinance the mission it could be perceived as "getting in line" with US interests- something that won't go down with the more militant left factions in the government.  

One would have hoped that with the arrival of Ronald Spoglio, a scholar, a more mature diplomatic relation could be established between the two superpowers. Gone were the days when US-Italy relations were dictated by a Claire Booth Luce or Reagan's Rabb, or the recent unfortunate parenthesis of a grovelling sycophant and his Florida buddy, Mel "God" Sembler.

The enlargement of the US-NATO airbase in Vicenza is a further source of conflict. The majority of Italians are opposed to enlarging the base. The base has already exceeded its maximum limits and has become a source of local conflict. Unfortunately the enlargement was secretly accorded by the previous government and the local authorities gave the go-ahead. By confirming the previous accord, the Prodi government has had to deal with mounting tension within the coalition.

There will be a national manifestation against the base on February 17th. The US Embassy Warden has put out a warning to all US citizens. The Prodi government gave "freedom of choice" to allies (but not ministers) to participate. Although large manifestations have done a good job of isolating agents provocateurs in recent events, nothing excludes an isolated party for the Berlusconi media in which fascist black blocks destroy American SUV's and what not. Instantly broadcasted worldwide on your favourite network.

The Calipari Assassination Case

The judge for the preliminary audience, Sante Spinaci, has decreed that the US soldier Mario Luis Lozano will stand trial on charges of voluntary homicide and attempted homicide. Nicola Calipari, a high-ranking Sismi official, was murdered at a checkpoint after liberating the reporter Giuliana Sgrena in Baghdad. (Major breaking coverage of the tragedy was done at DailyKos and Booman, especially by Jerome and Gilgamesh.)

The US government has refused to cooperate with Italian judiciary authorities in honouring extradition treaties. Lozano has been officially declared missing following the complete refusal of US authorities to collaborate. He will be tried in absentia, a possibility admitted by Italian law when the State's interests have been gravely jeopardized or damaged. "The Calipari homicide is to be qualified as objectively political considering the evident damage caused to the political interests of the State and the functioning of its highest institutions."

Judge Spinaci's ruling went beyond the request of the public minister and declared that the US wilfully destroyed evidence. The decree also cites the US Department of Defense as co-responsible in the crime. The trial will begin in Rome on April 17th.

The Abu Omar Kidnapping Case

On February 5th, the judge for the preliminary audience, Caterina Interlandi, ruled against Pollari's defensive tactic concerning state secrecy. Pollari alleged that he cannot defend himself because some eighty documents are covered by state secrecy. Interlandi has ruled that the kidnapping was never covered by state secrecy and that Pollari could just as well defend himself. The actual defensive tactic is not considered relevant to formulating a preliminary judgement. During an eventual trial Pollari may use whatever arguments or evidence he sees fit.

The whole affair had seen the previous government box itself into a corner. By denying that Italy had participated in the kidnapping or had ever known about it, the Berlusconi government consequently denied itself the option to apply state secrecy. It is further forbidden by law- for what little it's worth- to cover major crimes on Italian territory with state secrecy.

The next hearings are set for February 12th for defensive arguments by lawyers for the CIA. On February 16th, the preliminary judge will decide on the cases of Renato Farina and Luciano Pironi. Farina, ex-vice-director of Libero, is accused of aiding and abating while Pironi, now a witness for the State, is accused of participating in the actual kidnapping.

In the meantime two obscure events occurred in politics. A proposed bill to reform the secret services contained two articles that would have gotten Pollari off the hook were they to become law with retroactive provisions. Exposed by major newspapers, the two articles (28 and 29) were modified- for now. The bill should be presented on the floor within the next two weeks, a fairly strange coincidence since attempts to reform the services date back to the early nineties.

The second issue is the objection of the State Advocate to the revelation of the identities of Sismi operatives in Northern Italy in the PM's ordinances as well as the transmission of acts to the European Parliament by the Milan investigators. The constitutional court will be called to judge the matter that evidences a conflict of attributions between branches of the state. It is unlikely that a judgement will be passed in less than a year.

While the government has moved quickly with the State Advocate, it has yet to respond to the Milan Procura's numerous solicitations to transmit the request for extradition of the 24 CIA agents to American authorities.
UPDATE. Minor errors corrected. Unfortunately the judge in the preliminary hearings has been given as "Spinaci" or "Spinelli" according to different sources. The former is "Spinach" whereas the latter may be wishful thinking on the part of the author.

We will have a book worth of your postings one of these days...thank you for your ongoing work identifying the plot twists of this relationship!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Thu Feb 8th, 2007 at 09:42:39 AM EST
He will be tried in absentia, a possibility admitted by Italian law when the State's interests have been gravely jeopardized or damaged.

I'm all for Italy pursuing criminal investigations, whether against US soldiers or intelligence officials. But I don't see how in absentia trials can possibly be fair. And justifying them on grounds of exceptional circumstances because "the State's interests have been gravely jeopardized or damaged" smacks a bit too much of a certain other government that we all know and hate.

by MarekNYC on Thu Feb 8th, 2007 at 10:56:59 AM EST
Well, if the accused in question would like to defend himself all he has to do is show up in court, right? I don't see how proceeding with a trial in absentia violates anyone's rights if done because the accused refuses to appear before the court but has the option to do so.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Thu Feb 8th, 2007 at 11:16:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The refusal of the accused to cooperate with those prosecuting him doesn't vacate his rights. That's a basic cornerstone of criminal justice. You can't have a fair trial without the accused present. If the authorities aren't able to produce the accused they can't hold a trial. They have to wait until they get him into custody.
by MarekNYC on Thu Feb 8th, 2007 at 11:33:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Legal tradtitions vary on this point. In France one might be tried in absentia if there are multiple defendants, only a few of which are present. However, the apprehended fugitive can ask for a new trial afterwards.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Feb 9th, 2007 at 07:21:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a difference between Italy and France: in the French system, if somebody is condemned par contumace (in absentia), there is automatically a new fair trial when he/she is apprehended, and he/she keeps his/her rights to appeal.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 04:59:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think we're getting into fine print here. There's a difference between in contumacia and being a fugitive from justice (latitante), which is what I gather from the word "apprehended." A fugitive from justice can only be tried in specific cases such as when a certain number of defendants allegedly implicated in a crime have been apprehended but not all of them. Their superior right to trial overshadows the rights of the fugitive who will be tried along with them in contumacia. Mafia conspiracies come to mind.

Otherwise, a fugitive from justice will not be tried until he/she has been apprehended.

Generally, in absentia trials are due to the defendant exercising his right to refuse to be present at his trial. In fact it is considered a violation of human rights to force a person to assist to his trial. In that case the defendant chooses to be represented or accepts to be represented by his/her defense lawyer.

Trials in contumacia are admitted by the European Convention of Human Rights as long as certain safeguards are guaranteed with reasonable equilibrium in harmony with the principles of a fair trial.

In a recent case before the European Court Italy was condemned not because it has in absentia trials but because judiciary authorities had not proven beyond all reasonable doubt that the defendant was aware of proceedings against himself (Somogyi sentence of 18 May 2004- DoDo may know about this.)

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 07:08:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In France, a fugitive from justice ("en état de contumace") will be tried and condemned ("par contumace") if not present at the trial. However he/she will automatically be re-tried after he/she has been apprehended.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 07:31:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We discussed that case here (and I again mentioned it here).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Feb 11th, 2007 at 05:53:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In answer to your question posed long ago in your comment, the highest court (la cassazione) ordered that Tamas Somogyi's appeal be admitted on July 12, 2006. This followed recent legislation passed to conform with the European Court's sentence in favour of Somogyi's arguments in 2004.

So Somogyi will be able to have a re-trial. The case is fairly convoluted for this brief space. I can send you the various sentences and laws passed concerning the case, most pdf files- all in Italian except the Strasbourg sentence in French.

Here are some rulings or arguments on the case in Italian:



I'll have to find the links to the pdf files.

Once again, in absentia trials are not questioned by the European Court. The Strasbourg sentence ruled in merit of Somogyi's argument that he had not been informed that a trial was being celebrated against him.

Italy was ordered to modify legislation to guarantee absolute safeguards for the defendant's right to know he is to undergo a trial.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Feb 12th, 2007 at 04:59:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Once again, in absentia trials are not questioned by the European Court.

Yes, it was the process irregularities that were the problem. And even though the crucial issue Strasbourg based its ruling on was connected to starting an in absentia trial without bothering much about contacting him (they just sent one letter with name and address full of typos that thus never arrived, but didn't check back with the post, nor did they contact Hungarian authorities), that was only one of many problems in Somogyi's trials, which continued once he was apprehended when crossing the Hungarian-Austrian border. The higher instances essentially rubber-stamped the paper trail leading back to the in absentia trial, instead of thoroughly considering the evidence.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Feb 13th, 2007 at 11:07:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As I understand it, someone did sign for "Thamar" Somogyi, a signature that was not accepted by the European Court. Who knows "who" and "where" the notice was signed.

The technical-legal problem was that Italy had no provision to have a retrial since Somogyi had not presented recourse within time limits to the appellate court after the first sentence. So his grievance to have a retrial was not accepted by the Italian courts after his arrest. The European Court's decision brought about new legislation to put the burden of proof on the State that the defendant had been informed, rather than on the defendant.

So, yes, the Italian rulings against Somogyi's plaint did not thoroughly consider the evidence he presented to prove he had not been informed properly.

The French solution seems the best to me: automatic retrial.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Feb 13th, 2007 at 05:33:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
did not thoroughly consider the evidence he presented to prove he had not been informed properly.

It wasn't just his being informed properly, also the circumstances of the arrest and extradition by Austria, and the 'proof' of his guilt. As far as I know, the only hard evidence the case was based on was a testimony by the Hungarian-Romanian girlfriend of the gang leader.

This woman first settled in Hungary with the help of Somogyi's wife, then moved on to Italy, where she met the Savi brothers (one of whom was robber with mask and police officer without), and later on, she once invited Somogyi (a used car salesman) & family to Italy to sell a car of the gang. But when she testified (playing a pentito), she brought up Somogyi's name, which was linked up (either by her or by a clumsy interrogator, see below) with gun imports, and the car as payment.

The 'testimony' was inconsistent, both internally and with what Somogyi did at home at the time, but he never got the chance to present alibis or to confront with that woman, or even to give a testimony himself (he was brought to a hearing in Bologna during which he wasn't allowed to say anything), nor were the car sale documents brought by his wife considered, nor the physical fact that the 20 kg of guns would have had no place in that small Fiat beside the family, not to mention hiding it.

Regarding the inconsistencies in the gang leader's lover's testimony, this is the most bizarre part. It may be that the woman didn't intend to get Somogyi arrested, but Somogyi was unlucky. She gave the name ('Somogyi Tamás') and personal data of the wife! But the car Tamás Somogyi drove to Austria in was on the name of the wife, and he was arrested because the border guards first checked the car's papers...

I note that Somogyi's ordeal had the further grotesque moment that, to be closer to his wife, he asked for relocation to a Hungarian prison -- and the Hungarian state, whose diplomats and international lawiers were fighting for him, not only duly obliged but erroneously put him in a higher-security prison for serious criminals (murderers etc.)!... He was released only a year ago.

I also note that there is a domestic element of the story that would fit right in with your stories of murky conspiracies in Italy -- the real arms dealers were probably also Hungarians, but ones well-connected like the policeman Savi brother...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Feb 13th, 2007 at 06:55:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First things first. I'm not a lawyer and cannot vouch for an exhaustive and correct answer on this.

Second, were I to ask a dozen lawyer about it, I'd probably get as many answers.

Given that, article 8 of the Criminal Code has been applied in this case. Article 8 concerns political crimes committed in foreign territory either by an Italian citizen or a foreigner. Article 9 regulates common crime committed in foreign territory by an Italian citizen or a foreigner. Article 8 appears to allow more leeway in eventually declaring a defendant in absentia.

Now Italy like most continental European nations follows the inquisitorial system of justice while the US generally uses the adversarial system. The fundamental notion of the inquisitorial system is to establish the facts of an event, a sort of judiciary truth. So the prosecution of a person is in a certain sense secondary to this aim.

On national territory, a person who is subject to investigation or indicted must be identified, located and informed of procedures regarding him/her and when hearings will be held. Without going into detail on the articles of criminal procedure concerning "contumacy" or absence of the defendant (Codice di procedura penale, articles 420-quater, 489, 490 &c), the defendant has a right not to attend or participate in his/her preliminary hearings or trial and need only inform the court of the decision. Conversely, there are the conditions that may compel the court to declare a defendant in contumacy despite all lawful procedures undertaken to guarantee his/her presence during hearings. He/she will then be represented by his/her lawyer(s) throughout the trial whether chosen by him/her or by the court. The defendant declared in contumacy may at any moment present himself at hearings.

It may be noteworthy that in the Italian inquisitorial system a defendant has a right to silence and may make spontaneous declarations without taking oath and without cross-examination. The defendant may also ask to be interrogated. The burden of proof of whatever the defendant says always lies with the court.

Whereas the presence of the defendant appears crucial in the adversarial system where evidence is weighed before a jury between two contending parties, it does not appear indispensable for the inquisitorial system (except in rare cases of forming proof where the defendant's presence is indispensable).

The problem with Mario Lozano is not that he hasn't been identified but that he cannot be officially located. Considering the legal steps made by the Italian government for his extradition according to bilateral treaties, US State and Justice are at fault for not honouring those treaties. In fact they are ignoring Italy's grievance.

I presume that in the fine print of norms of procedure and their interpretation a certain burden lies at the feet of the US government in locating and informing Mr. Lozano. The Italian judiciary and the Minister of Justice have done all they can to inform Mr. Lozano of his rights as well as the time and location of hearings. He can at any moment present himself before the court, but whether he does so or not, he will always be represented by his lawyer(s).

So to clarify things, article 8 of the Criminal Code does not regulate trials in absentia. It simply explains the conditions of a crime committed abroad by a citizen or a foreigner that gravely offends the political interests of the State or the political rights of (a) citizen(s). Unlike articles 9 and 10 that regulate common offences the person indicted or the defendant does not have to be present on national territory. Ergo the possibility of a trial in which a defendant is declared in absentia.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Feb 8th, 2007 at 06:49:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the detailed response. Up to a point I guess you're right that in a Napoleonic Code style inquisitorial system things are different. However, clearly the Italian system does assume there's a problem with in absentia trials - otherwise it wouldn't limit them to cases which pose a grave threat to national security. Instead it would allow them in all cases. And right now I'm extremely wary of the idea that defendants in cases that threaten national security should have less rights than others.  And the practical effect of just issuing an arrest warrant isn't much different from actually holding a trial. In both cases if the US is unwilling to cooperate the only sanction against the accused is that he can't travel to Europe. If the issue is getting at the truth then it can be done equally well through a government inquiry. So I don't see the compelling reason for, what is in my view, a violation of the right to a fair trial, albeit perhaps a lesser one than it would be under the US judicial system.
by MarekNYC on Fri Feb 9th, 2007 at 11:25:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As far as I know Article 8 has been rarely invoked- and not for a danger to national security but for crimes against Italian citizens or Italian interests. The most notable cases were the trials held against members of the Argentina terror junta for Italian desaparacidos. Or in the case of the Achille Lauro in which Abu Abbas was condemned in absentia for the murder of the US citizen, Klinghofer. (The American brand of justice was to simply detain Abu Abbas in Baghdad without charges until he died.)

In the normal routine of justice on national territory trials in absentia are common in Italy, but its always by the will of the defendant. If the defendant does not show up for a hearing the judge postpones the hearing to another date. If however the defendant continues to not show up without cause, the judge declares that the defendant is in absentia and holds the defensive lawyer as representing the case. Otherwise, a trial would never go anywhere. A very well known case was the IMI-SIR trial against Previti and Berlusconi for bribery and corruption. Berlusconi chose to be defended in absentia while Previti dragged the trial out for years by concocting one excuse after another to postpone hearings. Simply because the statute of limitations never stops ticking away in Italy, unlike most nations.

Re government inquiries. Italy can institute parliamentary inquiries which have judiciary powers. Otherwise, there is no other form of inquiry for similar cases that does not directly involve the judiciary, whether civil or military.

There was a joint US-Italy inquiry in Iraq into the Calipari incident with manifest irregularities on the American part. The Italian investigators refused to sign the final report and wrote a dissenting report which was not taken into consideration. In effect they had been excluded from the key phases of the investigation.

As far as fair trials are concerned there has always been a lively discussion on which system is actually "fairer" to the defendant.

According to la  Stampa today Mario Lozano is presently on Staten Island, still with the 69th Infantry Regiment. He's put his destiny in the hands of the US military and reportedly fears a vendetta or an unfair trial. He could just as well express his version in court rather than confiding his misgivings to a media blurb. To consider Italian justice or Italians in general as motivated by vendetta is plain offensive especially confronted with a judiciary system- the American- that openly contemplates such vindictive punishments as the death penalty.

The widow of Nicola and his colleagues, as well as Giuliana Sgrena, have simply asked to find out the truth.

And if Lozano were to actually present himself before the court and eventually be found guilty after a trial? First he would get an automatic six years taken off the sentence thanks to the recent "indulgence" law. The judges would probably do a little backroom mathematics with the international scene in mind and further reduce the sentence for a variety of attenuating circumstances (first offender, clean slate, cooperative, penitent nice guy, war zone stress). At the most that would leave maybe two or three years maximum. He would be released immediately because his case would go to the appellate court. Plus, because of treaties between the States and Italy on serving time in your own nation, Lozano would go back home in no time ostensibly to serve what little time he's been meted if at all, and the case is closed. In the worst of hypothesis he'll land a contract with some PR firm.

And at the same time the offended parties would have had justice.

If instead Lozano does not wish to present himself, he'll just have to avoid visiting a considerable number of nations where he risks being arrested and extradited.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Feb 9th, 2007 at 05:30:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The statute of limitations clock not stopping happens in Poland as well, I believe, with similar bad effects.  If it's a concern the law could be changed.

How does a trial in absentia work if the defendant completely ignores the court? I don't just mean not showing up, but not at all. Does the court hire a lawyer to represent his interests and tell him to mount the best defense he can, or is it like in certain civil cases in the US where you get a judgement by default?  I'm trying to figure out how you get something resembling a fair trial without having a defendant.

by MarekNYC on Fri Feb 9th, 2007 at 07:01:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree that it would be very informative to discuss this. I personally do not feel qualified to defend the philosophical or legal aspects of in absentia trials. I would very much like to see this discussed by more qualified individuals.

As for in absentia trials in Italy, a defendant has the right to completely ignore his trial- a trial that can only be celebrated if he has been fully informed of when, where and why it is being held. It's a defendant's sovereign choice not to participate. Only in certain case can he/she be conducted to trial by the forces of law.

Your comment on statute of limitations. The Berlusconi government did pass a law modifying it by cutting statutes of limitation for all crimes for which he and his cohorts could be remotely accused. This has made it procedurally impossible to try a large number of crimes within the time limit. The Berlusconi government made further vexative laws such as the need to inform a person he is under investigation in a derisively small time limit. Other laws passed include reducing the time that a state witness may formulate his testimony or putting severe limits on the length of investigations.

Berlusconi practically destroyed the efficiency of the judiciary branch. (Not that it was all that efficient in the first place).

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 04:09:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(I'll spend the next few days arguing this out with those in the know...)
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 04:26:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do not know about Italy, but in Sweden I think the court appoints a lawyer (which is normal procedure) and the proceedings goes on in normal fashion, without the defendant.

There is however an absolute demand that defendants has gotten informed about the proceedings. So when avoiding the law (yes, statute of limitations clock ticks on) you do not avoid the court proceedings as much as you avoid getting served.

So I guess focus is on giving defendants the possibility of assisting in their own defense, and if they choose not to, well that is their loss.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 09:23:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Italy HAS a defendant, besides a major crime case with live and dead victims.  The defendant not showing while able, causes any "unfairness" to himself.

The US is obstructing justice and has pre-emptively prejudiced the defendant´s case before hand by leaving the Italian side out of the full investigation.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 12:13:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Italy HAS a defendant, besides a major crime case with live and dead victims.  The defendant not showing while able, causes any "unfairness" to himself.

No, that's the problem - Italy doesn't have a defendant - it has an arrest warrant out for the defendant. I really, really dislike this idea that somehow the state's burden is lessened if the defendant refuses to cooperate. If you're going to suggest that you don't need anybody presenting alternative theories and pointing out holes in the government's argument, why hold a trial at all? If the prosecutor thinks he is guilty, and he won't cooperate, skip the trial altogether.  

The US is obstructing justice and has pre-emptively prejudiced the defendant´s case before hand by leaving the Italian side out of the full investigation.

 Are you suggesting that the US is holding back exculpatory evidence of Lonzano's innocence? On the other hand if the evidence they have would hurt his case they're helping him. Think of it on individual terms - if I saw a person commit a murder and I refuse to testify in that person's trial I  may be obstructing justice, but I'm certainly not hurting that person's chances of getting off. I'm only hurting him if he's innocent. So if you believe that the US government is hurting Lonzano's case, that presumes that he isn't guilty.

by MarekNYC on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 02:40:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and it looked to me like the U.S. was most interested in whitewashing Lozano's superiors' incompetence and depraved indifference to human life. Lozano was exhausted and confused and should never have 'been commanding the alleged "checkpoint" in the first place. And no one ever got to the bottom of whether or not the Americans knew that Calipari and Sgrena were going to the airport that night.
by Matt in NYC on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 04:43:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but it's absolutely the only way any country has of protecting their citizens against trigger-happy American troops in the future. Just the fact that Italy has been aggressive in this case has already had the positive effect, I suspect, of "improving" the American rules of engagement. (Notice that there hasn't been another case like this since, nor have American troops been killing as many journalists as they were before this incident.) And since the accused is Italian-American, the likelihood that he'll never be able to set foot in Europe ever again will actually have a little sting. Even if he's found innocent, I sincerely hope that all American soldiers will think twice in the future before they open fire on (to them) "suspicious" civilians.

I doubt that the U.S. would ever allow this, but wouldn't the ideal solution be to let Mario Lozano mount his own defence, with his own lawyers, but in absentia, maybe even with closed-circuit TV? That way the U.S. could still refuse to extradite him, but he wouldn't be denied the right to defend himself.

by Matt in NYC on Fri Feb 9th, 2007 at 09:52:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the comment. The problem with the rules of engagement is that they are often ignored. There have been some diaries here or at Booman on how Lozano's unit violated most of them. The fact is that soldiers have been lulled into a sense of impunity because incidents are routinely covered up.

A strong message comes from the Italian State on the same day as the Calipari ruling. Two Italian gunners have been put on trial for having shot at an ambulance in Nassirya, killing four Iraqis.

Closed circuit TV is used in Italy, usually for trials of hardened criminals already serving time.

My personal opinion is that Mario present himself spontaneously. It would be an amazing message to the court and the Italian people.

Mario's family hails from Porto Rico. I don't know if he has Italian ancestors.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Feb 9th, 2007 at 05:53:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
a couple hundred references for Mario Lozano+Italian-American. Unfortunately, none of them are definitive -- and they also list him as both "Bronx-born" and "Manhattan-born." The closest anyone comes to being if not authoritative then at least credible is his brother Emiliano's statement in Newsday

I don't want to jump to conclusions but I think most Americans would assume that a New York-based family with sons named "Mario" and "Emiliano" were of Italian origin.

by Matt in NYC on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 07:56:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lozano is a Spanish word meaning "healthy". It doesn't sound like an Italian name to me.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 11:18:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The "ItaliansRUs" website has the following on their list of "Italian surnames":

Name                       Origin                  Current
Lozano, Antonio        Marsala, Sicily      New York
Lozano, Michael Paul     Lazio                Riverside

(Not that there's ever been any connection between Southern Italy and Spain!)

Of course it's not important, except that it shows how UNforthcoming the U.S. has been with investigators. There are stories out there claiming he was born in Puerto Rico, the Bronx, Manhattan and even one that flatly says he's "iberico" besides dozens flatly stating that it's very "ironic" that he's Italian-American.

I'll admit that the name and the initial reports that he was from New York City took me aback. Stupid, I know, but I guess I still expect American war criminals to be Southern White Protestants.  

by Matt in NYC on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 02:17:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would never refer to Lozano as a war criminal. He's accused of having killed a high-ranking SISMI officer and attempting to kill the other passengers. It isn't even remotely related to war crimes.

Other than that, thanks very much for your research on Lozano. Here, he's been indicated as coming from a family of Portoricans.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 03:54:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
in the trial. One thing I'm certain of, though, is that if he'd killed a whole family of Iraqis we never would have even heard about it. And even though I know they were just "following orders," I think the American policy of shoot first, ask questions later, is by definition a "war crime." The tragedy is that the senior officers responsible for instituting these unspeakable policies will never be tried in any court of law.
by Matt in NYC on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 04:30:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The issue here is the agreement between the US and Iraq under the provisional government, still binding: All crimes committed in Iraq and/or against Iraqi citizens by American troops are to be tried by American courts. Iraq had to relinquish a piece of its sovereignty.

This is not the first time of course- and will become routine now. The Clinton administration pretended and got the same treatment in ex-Yugoslavia (which allowed one hell of a mobster racket- drugs, arms and prostitutes).

Couple this with the refusal of the US to recognize the sentences or sign on to the International Criminal Court and you've got a clincher- absolute impunity in free zones set up by invasion.

Then let's not forget that the Iraqi war is not subject to the four Geneva accords simply because it is not an international war. It's the Iraqi government helped by its allies fighting against insurgents. Try to figure that out.

But as the ex-president of the International Criminal Court for ex-Yugosalvia, Antonio Cassese, wrote recently, America set the time bomb off in 1946 when the Supreme Court admitted responsibility for war crimes by superiors in the Yamashita case. The dissenting Judge Murphy remarked that this ruling would irrevocably mark the destiny of some future president and his military chiefs. He obviously had the Bush administration in mind.

The problem is what's going to happen when anyone of them, from simple soldier on up, actually gets arrested abroad. Will America invade Amsterdam to free soldier Ryan?

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 06:15:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(The name is totally of Spanish-descent)

Nobody is "denying him the right to defend himself", except himself and/or the USGovt.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 12:24:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
there's never been any emigration between Spanish- and Italian-speaking countries. ;-)
by Matt in NYC on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 02:19:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the only semi-long terms solution to this is a situation, where US civilians and media are pitted against US military troops in a war zone (accidentally or otherwise).

As long as the civilians, doctors, reporters and humanitarian aid workers killed are "non-US" they mean very little for the US military practices on the battle field overall or for the judicial system in the US. What happens is 99% lip service and PR damage control, justice be damned.

As such, I hope the US military will accidentally kill, kidnap and torture US civilians/reporters on the field, rather than the "non-US" type, IF they have to kill any to begin with (and to them it seems like they do).

When this happens on a scale big enough and is exposed, there is a potential for a (temporary) change in activity.

Until then, it's BAU and I'm not holding my breath for any change, regardless of the outcome of the Italy trials.

Might makes right and US knows it. Everything else is a  mere trick of mirrors to make it look like what its not.

by SamuM on Sun Feb 11th, 2007 at 06:22:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"...solicitations to transmit the request for extradition of the 24 CIA agents to American authorities" - unfortunately, it's already the deadlock, no way out for Italian justice at all :(

by Limarev Evgueni on Thu Feb 8th, 2007 at 11:48:10 AM EST
As my reply above, it causes a legal conondrum. If the Minister of Justice refuses to go through with a request for extradition, can CIA's 24 be eventually tried in absentia? They've been identified and their addresses are known- mostly PO boxes in Virginia- but how far can bonafide efforts go to inform them of hearings in which they have been indicted?

Can a trial be held w/o a formal request for extradition? It appears to be the case. We'll see what happens on the 12th.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Feb 8th, 2007 at 07:10:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent diary..

Learning a lot , as always.

I did not know the Vicenza base problem...difficult to go back now.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Feb 8th, 2007 at 03:12:15 PM EST
Funny, I knew of it from two sources: on one hand, in the eighties, the state TV propaganda showed every Italian protest against US bases; on the other hand, in some Italian films for children (for example with Bud Spencer), the locals' conflict with US base personnel was thematised.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 9th, 2007 at 04:35:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the next time some idiot on dKos claim Europeans would be devastated if they lost all those nice and supposedly big-spending GIs.

In fairness to those morons, though, you really have to live abroad or at least read foreign-language newspapers to have any idea that the American military is not beloved and welcomed all over Europe and Japan.

by Matt in NYC on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 08:04:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you, de Gondi.  It´s really excellent work to the last detail.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sat Feb 10th, 2007 at 12:29:23 PM EST
"...together with the other five members of the so-called "coalition of the willing"  that unilaterally invaded Iraq (England, Canada, Australia, Romania, Holland). The six representatives of the Iraqi invasion intimated..."

No, no, no...not Canada, please!  Former PM Chretien was strenuously opposed to the invasion, kept Canada out (Afghanistan, yes, but NOT Iraq) despite severe arm-twisting by the Cheney administration.  Not even the hapless Harper would even hint at moving Canadian troops into the Iraq hellhole...he has enough on his table with the casualties taken in southern Afghanistan already.

by Araucaria39 on Sun Feb 11th, 2007 at 01:17:58 AM EST
Thanks for pointing this error out.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Feb 11th, 2007 at 11:25:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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