The Monster of Florence
What follows is a letter from Douglas Preston, an American journalist and writer: Please read his story and blog about it.
Dear Friends and colleagues,
On April 7, my good friend and writing partner Mario Spezi, a well-known Italian journalist, was arrested and thrown into jail, in the worst abuse of state power I have ever seen in a Western European country.
This is what happened. Since the year 2000, Spezi and I have been researching and writing a book about a serial killer, dubbed the Monster of Florence, who murdered 14 people in the hills of Florence from 1974 to 1985. The case has never been closed and it has become one of the longest running criminal investigations in Italian history. Our book, Dolci Colline di Sangue, was published in Italian by RCS Libri on April 19, and will later be published in the U.S.
Our book is a counter investigation to the official investigation being conducted by the Pubblico Ministero (public prosecutor) of Perugia, Giuliano Mignini, and Commissario Michele Giuttari, the head of an elite police unit known as GIDES (Gruppo Investigativo Delitti Seriali). Several times Spezi appeared on popular television programs in Italy criticizing the official investigation, which claims that the killings were instigated by a Satanic sect. Our book also criticizes the Mignini and Giuttari by name, and it shows that their investigation is groundless and, frankly, absurd.
On November 18, 2004, policemen from GIDES searched Spezi’s apartment and took away his computer, our research, notes, computer disks, archives, and drafts of the book. The search warrant was signed by Mignini and it gave two reasons for the search: a) Spezi “had attempted, through the medium of television, to materially obstruct the investigation” and that Spezi “had displayed… a suspicious and unusual interest in the investigation.” In addition, Spezi was given an “avviso di garanzia” which listed that he was being investigated for 17 crimes, labeled A) through R). All of the crimes were marked “segreto” and neither Spezi nor his lawyer have been told what they are.
After PEN International wrote a letter, much of the material was returned. Although the police searched Spezi’s apartment a second time and seized more material, we were able to finish our book.
I went to Italy on February 14, 2006, with my wife and two little children for a vacation. On February 22, two detectives from GIDES called me on my cell phone and demanded to see me. They presented me with a summons to appear for questioning before Judge Mignini the next day. I appeared before Judge Mignini in his office in Perugia at noon on February 23. Present at the meeting were two detectives, a captain of the Polizia, and a stenographer.
Without a lawyer or a translator present, Mignini proceeded to interrogate me for almost three hours. He asked me about my relationship with Spezi, how long I had known him, and he asked many, many detailed questions about our activities as journalists and our sources. When my answers did not satisfy him, he became excited and aggressive, repeating the same questions over and over again, reading back my answers and seizing on every mispronounced or stumbled-over word as evidence I was lying. He played for me a telephone conversation I had had with Spezi a few days before which they had wiretapped, demanding to know what each word and phrase “really meant.” He threatened me with an indictment (an “avviso”) if I didn’t tell him what we were “really doing” as journalists. I asked him if he thought I had committed a crime and he said, yes—to whit: Spezi and I (he said) had planted or were planning to plant a gun in an attempt to obstruct a police investigation; that we intended to frame an innocent man for murder; and (most incredibly) that I was an accessory after the fact to murder. Judge Mignini then announced he was indicting me for perjury. (To be absolutely accurate, by “indictment” I mean that I was officially recorded as a suspect in the crime and became “una persona indagata” and so informed through an “avviso di garanzia.”) I was forced to sign a document which was an alleged transcription of my interrogation. Judge Mignini then informed me that my investigation would be temporarily suspended so that I could leave Italy, but that it would be reinstated later.
On April 11 I read in the Italian papers that Judge Mignini augmented the charges against me to include “calunnia” (criminal libel) and “depistaggio” (obstruction of a police investigation.)
A few days after I left, Spezi found in his car a GPS device, transmitter and microphone attached to the wires that had once powered his radio, which had been “stolen” just before I arrived. The police subsequently admitted to planting the device.
On Frida, April 7, Mario Spezi was arrested by GIDES. They lured him outside his apartment in Florence with a false story and put him in a car, where he was taken to GIDES headquarters, and then on to jail in Perugia. I spoke to his wife, Myriam, and she says the police refused to show an arrest warrant and refused to let Spezi call his lawyer.
The same day, Judge Mignini asked the Giudice delle Indagini Preliminari (GIP) of Perugia, Marina de Robertis, to invoke a special law against Spezi, normally used only against the most dangerous terrorists and Mafiosi. This law allowed the police to hold Spezi for five days in isolation without access to his lawyer and to undergo heavy interrogations without the presence of legal counsel, under the most extreme conditions allowable under Italian law.
The accusations against Spezi, according to press accounts, are “criminal libel” “disturbing an essential public service,” and “obstructing a criminal investigation.” He was, essentially, arrested for doing his job as a journalist. He was also charged with complicity in an unsolved murder that occurred twenty-one years ago — an utterly absurd charge, but one which allows the police and judiciary to act against him with great force. I was listed among seven others who were being investigated “in connection with” the same crimes.
I am a journalist who has written for the New Yorker, Harpers, the Atlantic, and National Geographic. I have published ten best-selling novels and four nonfiction books. I have taught writing at Princeton University, I am on the Governing Council of the Authors Guild. I mention these facts only to establish my credentials.
Please, all of you who receive this appeal, write a letter in support of Spezi. Below is information to where your letter should be directed.
Italians are extremely sensitive to American and European public opinion. The letter should convey the depth of our concern and should also hint at the amount of publicity this issue is already generating in America—with articles published in the Boston Globe, The Washington Post, several AP stories, an upcoming Dateline NBC story, and a piece I am writing for the Atlantic—among many others.
VERY IMPORTANT: To anyone writing a letter, be sure to email a copy to these three leading journalists in Italy:
Vincenzo Tessandori Vincenzo.TESSANDORI@lastampa.it
Laura Montanari email@example.com
Mario Porqueddu MPorqueddu@rcs.it
If you are a writer yourself, I can almost guarantee you will be held up in the Italian press as great supporter of freedom of the press, and you will be helping an innocent journalist who has been unjustly accused and is even now being subjected to treatment beyond the civilized pale.
Letters should reference the Pubblico Ministero di Perugia Giuliano Mignini and il Commissario Michele Giuttari (“Michele” is a man, by the way) who are the two people behind this injustice. Here is where they should go:
Il Professore Virginio Rognoni
il Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura
Piazza Indipendenza, 6
00185 Roma, Italy
fax (011-39) 06-4457175
Rognoni is the head of the governmental department that supervises the magistrate judges of Italy and makes sure they are not corrupt and are conducting their business properly. This is the most important person to address letters to.
Dott. Giuliano Mignini
Il Pubblico Ministero di Perugia
La Procura della Repubblica
Via Fiorenzo di Lorenzo nr. 22/24
06121 Perugia (PG) Italy
Fax: (011-39) 075-572-3953
Mignini is the judge who interrogated me and who ordered the arrest of Spezi. A letter addressed to him should use his title, “Dottore,” as in “il Dottore Giuliano Mignini.” Or “Dott. Giuliano Mignini.”