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CRIME

Trial date set for US teens over Italian police murder

An Italian judge has set a date for the fast-tracked trial of two US teenagers charged with killing a police officer during a botched drug deal in Rome.

Trial date set for US teens over Italian police murder
"Always with us": mourners carry a photo of murdered officer Rega at his funeral. Photo: Eliano Imperato/AFP

The trial date, February 26, has been set unusually quickly by the standards of the Italian justice system, after a judge accepted the Rome prosecutor's request for an 'immediate' trial, bypassing the preliminary hearing stage.

The violent killing of officer Mario Cerciello Rega, who was in plain clothes when he was stabbed to death on July 26, sparked a national outcry. 

READ ALSO: Stabbed 11 times with a US Marine knife: Prosecutors reveal how Italian police officer was murdered

On Thursday, Judge Chiara Gallo set a February 26 trial date in the case against Finnegan Elder, 19, and Gabriel Natale Hjorth, 18, who are being held in a Rome jail.

Both are facing charges of voluntary manslaughter, resisting arrest, attempted extortion and assault, according to Italian media reports.

Police have said that Elder confessed to stabbing Cerciello Rega, 35, with a combat knife.

Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Cerciello Rega and his partner intercepted the teens after an intermediary on a drug deal reported them to the police for stealing his bag after they were sold aspirin instead of cocaine.

Police tracked the teens to their four-star hotel after the attack, where they found a large knife hidden in the false ceiling of their room.

 
The weapon used in the attack on Cerciello, which has an 18-centimetre blade, was brought over from the US.
 
“Having a knife is not unusual for a kid of his age in our neighbourhood,” Elder's mother has previously said.
 
Many questions remain about the events of that night, but on Tuesday Italy's La Repubblica newspaper published leaked, intercepted statements from Elder in prison saying the teens knew that Cerciello Rega and his partner, Andrea Varriale, were police as they had identified themselves as such.

 

 

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ITALIAN HISTORY

Rome archaeologists continue search for start of Appian Way

An excavation team in Rome is trying to unearth the first, oldest section of the Appian Way, the Roman Empire's most strategic highway, which may soon become a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Rome archaeologists continue search for start of Appian Way

A paved road of more than 500 kilometres (310 miles) begun in 312 BC by Roman statesman Appius Claudius Caecus, the ‘Via Appia‘ is an archaeological treasure trove, where an ongoing excavation hopes to uncover the actual starting point of the road in Rome.

The artery leading south to the key port of Brindisi at Italy’s heel provided a gateway to the eastern Mediterranean, especially Greece, and was of strategic importance for the armies and merchants of a quickly expanding Rome.

READ ALSO: Treasure trove of ancient Roman statues unearthed in Tuscany

This week, archaeologists showed off progress in their attempt to dig deep enough to unearth the beginning of the road, hidden far beneath Rome’s Baths of Caracalla, built some five centuries after the Appian Way.

“What we see today is the result of an excavation that began in July with the central goal of finding clues to the location of the first section of the Appian Way,” said archaeologist Riccardo Santangeli Valenzani.

The first, earliest section of the road is the one that provides “the most problems regarding the precise and exact location”, the professor at Roma Tre University cautioned.

The Appian Way is a paved road stretching more than 500 kilometres, begun in 312 B.C. by Roman statesman Appius Claudius Caecus. (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP)

Construction of the Appian Way required Herculean engineering, from the levelling of the land, building of ditches and canals and surfacing of the road with gravel and heavy stone, to the building of post offices and inns to support the thousands of soldiers and merchants headed southward.

Digging deeper

Wandering today along the Appian Way, where massive blocks of paving stone are still visible in sections, is to take a trip through the past.

Imposing monuments such as the first century BC tomb of a consul’s daughter, Cecilia Metella, sit alongside ancient catacombs and churches, crumbling tombstones of Roman families and leafy villas.

The Appian Way sheds light not only on the Roman Republic and later Roman Empire, but also on life and death in the Middle Ages with its pilgrimage shrines and crypts.

The road also provides a glimpse of modern architectural wonders, such as the sumptuous villas owned by Italy’s rich and famous, including film legend Gina Lollobrigida or former premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Appian Way in Rome

A man walks along Rome’s Appian Way, which might soon become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Italy, which earlier this month presented its bid for the Appian Way to UNESCO, already has 58 sites recognised as World Heritage Sites, the most of any country.

They include entire historical city centres, such as Rome, Florence and Venice, and archaeological areas such as the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Work to locate the starting point of the Appian Way, believed to be some eight metres below ground, has so far been complicated by groundwater.

Nevertheless, digging in higher strata of ground has unearthed relics from different periods, including a marble bust from the second century AD and an early papal square coin, minted between 690 and 730.

Wandering today along the Appian Way is to take a trip through the past. (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP)

Archaeologists have also found fragments of glass and ceramics, mosaic and bits of amphora.

So far, the excavation has reached residential or commercial structures dating back to the time of Emperor Hadrian, who died in 138 AD.

Archaeologist Daniele Manacorda said the current excavation had reached the point of “late ancient Rome, the one that began to live in the ruins of ancient Rome”.

“If we could continue to dig deeper, we would find archaic Rome,” he said.

By AFP’s Kelly Velasquez and Alexandria Sage

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