“41 bis”, the isolation regime that the Italian Justice applies to mafia bosses and terrorists

Italians face 41 bis, the harsh sentence handed down to mafia bosses and terrorists (REUTERS) (GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE /)

Italy These days, it is experiencing a political storm that broke out after confidential information regarding the jailed anarchist leader Alfredo Cospito. The prisoner was sentenced with the parameters of the 41 bisthe severe solitary confinement regime existing in the country since the eighties -in a context of cruel and bloody actions of the mafia- and that today divides Italians and generates great controversy.

the most bloodthirsty mafia bosses have been subjected to this “hard” jailincluding the recently arrested chief of Cosa Nostra, Matteo Messina Denaro. This regime imposes extremely strict conditions that have raised controversy among those who approve “isolate” to these subjects and those who, on the contrary, consider it a violation of human rights.

Although 41 bis was created for cases related to the mafiaCospito was punished with this penalty in May for a attack of a “terrorist nature” in Turin in 2016 for which, although no injuries or deaths were reported, he is serving a sentence of 20 years in prison.

alfredo cospito
Alfredo Cospito is serving his sentence under regime 41 bis for an attack of a “terrorist nature”

The prisoner, however, began a hunger strike more than 100 days ago as a sign of protest and to demand that this be modified. His request was supported by his followers, who protested in the streets of the country and abroad, such as in Spain.

For its part, the Italian government has categorically rejected his actions.“We do not give in to intimidation and threats”commented on Tuesday the far-right prime minister, Giorgia Meloni who, on the contrary, expressed his solidarity with a journalist from public television RAI who was attacked in front of the jail to which Cospito was transferred after a deterioration in his state of health this Monday.

Giorgia Meloni declared:
Giorgia Meloni declared: “We do not give in to intimidation and threats” (REUTERS) (REMO CASILLI /)

Added to this was the famous anti-mafia writer Roberto Saviano, who referred to the controversy and spoke of the revelations of Giovanni Donzelli -deputy from Meloni’s party- who assured the Chamber of Deputies that Cospito had held talks with a mafia boss whom he “used” for the State to “cede in 41 bis”.

“The revelations of the deputy Giovanni Donzelli, if true, show that criminal organizations try to take advantage of and exploit an erroneous choice of institutions, namely, the 41 bis granted to Alfredo Cóspito”Saviano said, adding that “even though he shouldn’t have said it, it was useful because it confirms that organized crime is trying to manipulate a wrong election to their own advantage.”

Roberto Saviano spoke about the controversy that revolves around 41 bis and the revelations of Giovanni Donzelli (REUTERS)
Roberto Saviano spoke about the controversy that revolves around 41 bis and the revelations of Giovanni Donzelli (REUTERS) (Gustau Nacarino /)

41 bis began to be applied in Italy in 1992 after a wave of deadly attacks against anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino in Sicily. Due to the seriousness of the crimes, this regime has strong restrictions so that the prisoner is housed in an individual cell in which he has no contact with the rest of the prisoners and has no access to common areas. Only in some cases are they granted a couple of hours outdoors, always maintaining complete isolation and subjected to continuous surveillance by agents who, in turn, cannot maintain contact with other officials.

Only in some cases, once a month, the prisoner is enabled to receive a visit from their relatives. It is carried out with a armored partition by means that eliminates any possibility of physical contact. Too all correspondence is checked that he receives while serving his sentence in prison and You are not allowed access to books or magazines.

Due to its harshness, 41 bis has been the target of many criticisms, including the European Convention for the Prevention of Torturewho considers it “inhuman”. In turn, the European Court of Human Rights has raised its voice and has questioned it and, in 2007, The United States denied the extradition to Italy of mobster Rosario Gambino, alleging that the system “amounts to torture”.

alfredo cospito
The 41 bis has been criticized and pointed out as inhumane (AFP) (ALBERTO PIZZOLI /)

At present they are 728 those sentenced to this penalty, including 12 women. Although most of them are gangsters there are 4 cases of terrorists -among them Cospito-.

Faced with Cospito’s complaint that this constitutes “a violation of human rights”, professors, philosophers, former magistrates and artists have asked the authorities to reconsider the sentence and “save the life” of the anarchist leader. The board of italian penalists has also spoken out and described the prison regime as an “unworthy page of our civil life”.

Lawyers like Giosué Bruno Naso, defender of several of those convicted with 41 bis, has explained that this “no longer has a reason to exist” because “the terrorism of the Red Brigades and the mafia of the killings” no longer exist.

However the Minister of Justice Carlo Nordio has assured during an emergency session in Parliament that it is “unthinkable” that “the conditions of detention” be changed since “if we do, tomorrow we could find hundreds of gangsters acting in the same way”.

Carlo Nordio explained that the conditions of detention will not be changed due to the risks that this implies (REUTERS)
Carlo Nordio explained that the conditions of detention will not be changed due to the risks that this implies (REUTERS) (YARA NARDI /)

Beyond the recent controversies, the 41 bis has been, in turn, one of the few points on which all Italian parties have agreed for many years of the political arc, from the right to the left.

“I am one of those who thinks that 41 bis should not be modified absolutely. The only thing is – precisely because we are in a civilized and democratic country – not to let anyone die in jail ”, he commented this Wednesday Stefano Bonaccinithe main candidate to lead the Democratic Party, the main opposition after the next primaries.

(With information from EFE)

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