Passenger without Italy’s Covid green pass faces prison after delaying train

A passenger who failed to show a valid Covid-19 'green pass' for travel and refused to get off an interregional train now faces a possible jail sentence for delaying a public service.

Authorities removed a train passenger for travelling without a valid green pass.
Authorities removed a train passenger for travelling without a valid green pass. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

Italy’s health ministry on Monday introduced new rules aimed at preventing passengers without a valid health certificate from disrupting and delaying long-distance train services, after reports of police having to remove people who refused to show a Covid-19 health certificate, called a ‘green pass’ in Italy.

In one recent case, a high-speed Italo train service on the Reggio Calabria-Milan line had to stop in Rome after a passenger failed to produce a valid document and refused to get off.

UPDATE: Italy tightens Covid green pass rules on public transport

Instead of showing a green pass, which has been a requirement for travel on all interregional trains since September 1st, the woman instead showed a photo of the result of a home test kit, as well as a self-certification form.

“I won’t get off,” the passenger said when asked to produce a valid health document, newspaper Corriere della Sera reports.

Following a quarrel with the conductor, Italian police were alerted to the dispute and the train stopped in Rome where the argument continued, stopping the train from departing for almost half an hour

Officers explained that the picture printed on a sheet of paper did not prove that the test was hers. Nor did it prove when the swab was taken.

Green passes can be released based on the results of PCR or rapid antigen swab tests conducted at pharmacies or by other medical professionals, but not based on the results of a home test kit.

Police told the passenger the photo of her home test result couldn’t replace a green pass and asked her to get off the train, in line with Covid health pass regulations.

The rules state that passengers without a valid pass can be moved to another part of the train before being asked to get off at the next stop.

READ ALSO: Where do you now need to show a Covid green pass in Italy?

An inspector checks passengers boarding a high-speed “Frecciarossa” train for their green pass on September 1st, when it first became compulsory on interregional trains. Photo: Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

After eventually agreeing to disembark, the passenger was fined for breaching the green pass rules and was subsequently reported for interruption of a public service.

This crossed the line into criminal law, with the passenger now facing charges for causing a delay to the train, with penalties including a potential prison sentence of up to one year.

The passenger’s lawyers have lodged an appeal with the Regional Administrative Tribunal to challenge both the penalty and the law as a whole.

The passenger reportedly said she believes the green pass system is illegitimate “from a constitutional point of view” and in conflict with European regulations and treaties.

For the time being, the Administrative Court has closed the matter, stating that they cannot consider a case’s “constitutional compatibility”.

READ ALSO: Is Italy likely to bring back Covid restrictions this Christmas?

The health ministry changed the Covid green pass rules on public transport on Monday in a bid to slow the recent sharp rise in infection rate before Christmas.

To help prevent such delays in future, train staff should now verify passengers’ health passes before boarding and not after during ticket inspections, as has been the practice so far.

The checks will reportedly be carried out “where possible”, including at major train stations with ticket barriers such as Rome Termini and Florence Santa Maria Novella.

The rules apply to long-distance and interregional train passengers, but not to those taking local services.

As well as those who fail to show a green pass, new rules state that railway police and local health authorities can stop any train on which passengers are found to “present symptoms attributable to the coronavirus” and the train company will need to “sanitise the train before putting it back into operation”.

Italy’s green pass is a requirement at workplaces, indoor restaurants and leisure venues as well as on long-distance public transport.

Only those who are vaccinated, recovered, or have tested negative, either with a PCR test or a rapid (antigenic) swab test can access it.

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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.