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CRIME

Italy’s Salvini calls for chemical castration for alleged rapists of American au pair

Italy's interior minister called for rape to be punishable by chemical castration after an American teenager said she was gang-raped by three men in Sicily.

Italy's Salvini calls for chemical castration for alleged rapists of American au pair
Italian police have arrested three men on suspicion of raping an American au pair. File photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

“No leniency for the molesting worms who raped a tourist,” Interior Minister Matteo Salvini tweeted on Wednesday. “Guaranteed jail time and chemical castration!”

The case concerns three Sicilian men who are accused of gang-raping an 19-year-old American woman in the city of Catania earlier this month. The suspects, reported to be aged between 19 and 20, were arrested last week having been identified from videos filmed throughout the evening on the group's phones.

According to the alleged victim, who had been working as an au pair for a local family for three months, she met the men in a bar on the evening of March 15th and, on the pretext of going to another bar together, they forced her into a car and drove to a remote area where they took turns to assault her.

Phone records published in the Italian press show that the woman repeatedly attempted to call the emergency number 112 and even 911, the US equivalent, during the almost two hours she says she was in the car, but the men allegedly cut off her calls. Fragments of the attack were reportedly recorded in WhatsApp voice messages that she sent to try to alert a friend, in which TGCOM24 reports that she can be heard to say “Help, help, I'm in a car” and “No, enough, I don't want to, I don't want to”.


Catania in eastern Sicily. Photo: Marie-Laure Messana/AFP

The men themselves filmed the attack on their phones, according to the woman, who says that one of them contacted her on social media the following day to ask if she wanted to go out again.

She reported the attack to the Italian police later that day and has since returned to the United States, reported Repubblica

Lawyers for the suspects complain that their clients, who have been named in the Italian press alongside pictures taken from their Facebook profiles, are being unfairly tried in the media. Maria Luisa Ferrari, a lawyer for one of the three suspects, told Repubblica that “a picture is emerging of 19-year-old boys who wanted to have fun and who lost control”.

That defence is unlikely to win sympathy from those who say Italy regularly fails to deliver justice for violence against women.

READ ALSO: 

Outcry over a series of recent rulings, including one court's decision to clear two men of rape because the woman was judged “too masculine” to be sexually attractive and another judge's leniency towards a man who murdered his wife on the grounds that she “humiliated” him by having an affair, last week prompted the government to propose tougher sentences for attacks on women and children.

Italy is currently debating whether to introduce an amendment that would allow men convicted of a sexual offence to opt for drug treatment designed to inhibit their sex drive – so-called chemical castration – in exchange for a suspended sentence. The proposal has been criticized by both women's rights defenders and doctors. 

Italian police were criticized for their handling of another high-profile rape case in 2017 involving two Americans in Florence, who reported being raped by on-duty carabinieri officers. Lawyers for the accused tried to paint the women as heavy-drinking and promiscuous, asking them questions such as “Were you wearing underwear that night?” and “Do you find men in uniform sexy?” 

One man was sentenced to four years and eight months for the Florence attack, while the other is due to go on trial in May. 

In Catania, mayor Salvo Pogliese said the American victim had “the deepest solidarity of the local community, which strongly condemns an extremely serious act that has hurt not only her dignity but Catania's reputation”.

READ ALSO: 'Violence against women conditions every aspect of our lives'


Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
 

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CRIME

Italy marks 30-year anniversary of anti-mafia judge murder

Thirty years ago, the Sicilian mafia killed judge Giovanni Falcone with a bomb so powerful it was registered by experts monitoring volcanic tremors from Etna on the other side of the island.

Italy marks 30-year anniversary of anti-mafia judge murder

The explosion, which ripped through a stretch of motorway near Palermo at 5.56 pm on May 23rd 1992, sent shockwaves across Italy, but also signalled the start of the mafia’s decline.

Anti-mafia prosecuting magistrate Falcone, his wife, and three members of his police escort were killed.

The mob used a skateboard to place a 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) charge of TNT and ammonium nitrate in a tunnel under the motorway which linked the airport to the centre of Palermo.

Falcone, driving a white Fiat Croma, was returning from Rome for the weekend.

At a look-out point on the hill above, a mobster nicknamed “The Pig” pressed the remote control button as the judge’s three-car convoy passed.

The blast ripped through the asphalt, shredding bodies and metal, and flinging the lead car several hundred metres.

The three policemen on board were killed instantly.

READ ALSO: Could body found on Italy’s Mount Etna help solve long-standing mafia mystery?

Falcone, whose wife was sitting beside him, had slowed seconds before the explosion and the car slammed into a concrete guard rail.

His chauffeur, who was sitting in the back, survived, as did the three agents in the convoy’s rear.

A “garden of memory” now stands on the site of the attack. Oil from olive trees that grow there is used by Sicilian churches for anointing children during baptisms and confirmations.

‘Mafia massacre’

Falcone posed a real threat to the Cosa Nostra, an organised crime group made famous by “The Godfather” trilogy and which boasted access to the highest levels of Italian power.

It was he who gathered evidence from the first mafia informants for a groundbreaking trial in which hundreds of mobsters were convicted in 1987.

And at the time of the attack, he headed the justice ministry’s criminal affairs department in Rome and was working on a package of anti-mafia laws.

His murder woke the nation up. The Repubblica daily attacked the “mafia massacre” in its headline the next day, with a photo of the famous moustachioed magistrate, while thousands of people in Palermo protested in the streets.

All eyes turned to fellow anti-mafia magistrate Paolo Borsellino, Falcone’s close friend and colleague, who gave an interview at the start of July saying the “extreme danger” he was in would not stop him doing his job.

On July 19th, just 57 days after his friend, Borsellino was also killed in a car bomb attack, along with five members of his escort. Only his driver survived.

Amid national outrage, the state threw everything it had at hunting down Cosa Nostra boss Salvatore (Toto) Riina, who was involved in dozens of murders during a reign of terror lasting over 20 years.

Riina was arrested on January 15th, 1993, in a car in Palermo.

The truth?

The murders of Falcone and Borsellino “in the long term turned out to be a very bad business for Cosa Nostra, whose management team was decapitated by arrests and informants’ confessions”, Vincenzo Ceruso, author of several books on the mafia, told AFP.

Dozens of people have been convicted for their roles in the assassinations.

But Roberto di Bella, now an anti-mafia judge at the Catania juvenile court in Sicily, said that while “the majority of the perpetrators have been tried and convicted”, there remained “a part that is still not clear”.

Survivors insist there are still bits of the puzzle missing and point to Falcone’s belief there could be “possible points of convergence between the leaders of Cosa Nostra and the shadowy centres of power”.

“We still don’t have the truth about who really ordered the murder of Giovanni Falcone, because I don’t believe that ignorant people like Toto Riina could have organised an attack as sophisticated as that in Capaci,” Angelo Corbo, one of the surviving bodyguards, said in a documentary.

He said he was not alone in believing there were “men in suits and ties” among the mobsters.

However, an investigation into possible “hidden orchestrators” of the Capaci attack was thrown out in 2013.

“There is no evidence of the existence of external backers. There is no doubt that these are mafia acts,” author Ceruso said.

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