As we approach the end of the trial of Operation Bialystok, it seems to us to be the right moment to spread some considerations on its progress. Although we are not interested in following the pace dictated by repression, nor in taking a victimistic or alarmist stance in the face of the activities of police institutions, we believe it is important to share information and impressions about what is happening at the court level. By conscious choice, we will summarize aspects and moments that we consider noteworthy, at the expense of a detailed and chronological description of the trial in which we are involved.
As far as the framework of the investigation is concerned, we refer to the texts “Sull’operazione Bialystok” (On the Bialystok operation) already published and circulated on the web and “Testo e contesto” (Text and context).
At the time of writing all defendants in this proceeding are at large. On January 27th a positive response was received to a request for the end of the precautionary measures to which 4 defendants were still subject (3 obligations to stay and one obligation to present themselves for weekly signatures), so that at the moment only one person remains under obligations to stay. The differences in conditions are mainly due to the different timing in the presentation of the appeals which brought the same before different courts, and to the specificity of the individual positions regarding the crimes charged.
Broadly speaking, up to now the process has been marked by hours and hours of endless hearings for the delineation of the anarchist context both nationally and internationally, hearings where we defendants have almost never been nominated. Only after many hearings did we begin to talk about the so-called specific facts. There was a certain interest and prominence in the moments in which the international relations of the defendants were exposed; this was not because the prosecution brought who knows what elements, on the contrary, we witnessed a real climbing on mirrors, but more because of the play of roles within the institution of justice. It is evident that an assize court, used to dealing with crimes of a certain gravity, sees in the international dimension of the investigation the possibility of its own raison d’être. And this, we say, on the level of the actual courtroom show; behind the scenes, that is, on the level of the investigation, and therefore of the repressive strategy, we also see something else, that is, a direction that looks like it wants to be taken in the future. These, like others in the past, are attempts, sometimes successful and sometimes less so, to structure on a concrete level the collaboration of police and prosecutors’ offices on an international level regarding investigations.
It is clear, in fact, that there are different levels of cooperation: on the one hand, some of us have been arrested abroad, as it happened in other anti-anarchic operations, demonstrating that the European counter-terrorism agreements are operational and well-established when there is an arrest warrant, but things do not seem so smooth and fluid when the investigative departments require support in the investigation, such as access to information collected by foreign police, the request for observation services or to authorize searches. For example, in the operation that concerns us they tried to search, and perhaps arrest if the results were positive, an anarchist resident in Germany; the German state, however, did not consider sufficient the evidence presented by the Italian ROS and did not allow him to proceed with the investigation on him.
During the trial, it is a certain Colonel Emperor of the ROS (Raggruppamento Operazioni Speciali dei Carabinieri – Special Operations Group of the Carabinieri) who reports on the construction of the judicial hypothesis. This character seems to have been chosen more for his mnemonic abilities than for his intelligence. It is clear that his purpose is to create a representation of the anarchist world as a whole that justifies an investigation that has no substance. To this end, encouraged by the judges and the Public Prosecutor (who has been little more than an extra for almost the entire trial, confirming the fact that this legal figure plays in many cases a role of mere paper-pusher employed by the police), has made several flights of fancy ranging from the kneecap of Dr. Mammoli in ’77 by Azione Rivoluzionaria to the explosive actions claimed by the FAI, from the Chilean to the Greek anarchist context, all well seasoned with all sorts of spectacular inferences to create a general framework of dangerousness of the anarchist movement that would justify the specific repressive intervention. Its purpose is nothing more than that of a smoke machine in order to suggest the judges and the popular court in the absence of solid evidence. The lowest point (or highest, depending on whether one considers the scale of decency or that of the absurd), and at the same time most indicative of the inquisitorial mentality of these characters, was when the Colonel stated that “Alfredo Cospito is the most important anarchist alive” during cross-examination. Laughable stuff if it did not confirm the fury of the repressive institutions towards this anarchist prisoner who stubbornly continues to participate in the anarchist debate with conviction for their ideas and the passion that they inspire.
This narrative that tends to the spectacle is put in place, among other expedients, by a whole slide of meaning that is recorded in the words chosen (and repeated until exhaustion) by the colonel to describe the facts. Newspapers and meetings become “clandestine” only because they circulate by word of mouth or from hand to hand, burnt cars become “attacks”, a bit of diavolina on a tire becomes “an explosive incendiary device”, a broad and complex concept such as solidarity is reduced to a simple pretext for carrying out actions, etc. The border between the cop and the journalist becomes thinner and thinner when his task becomes that of impressing in order to convince of the right necessity of the repressive work. It is in fact through the “discourse of power”, the imposition of a certain reading of things to the detriment of another, that hard and pure repression gives way to the spread of consensus, pacification and citizenship.
In the courtroom, the judges did not even try to conceal their sympathy for the ROS and the annoyance they felt at the defense’s attempt to dismantle the prosecution’s hypotheses. This was even more evident during cross-examination, on the one hand by putting pressure on, if not in some cases directly challenging, the questions of the defense attorneys, and on the other by encouraging the prosecution witnesses (the ROS officers who had been involved in the investigation in various capacities) to exaggerate their answers, to bring new elements even though it would be contrary to judicial practice, etc. The Colonel has shown an incredible nerve in evading questions in order to spasmodically present his version of the facts, even if on some specific questions there were “I don’t know”, “I didn’t understand the question” and “I don’t remember”.
As a demonstration of the forcing that the investigators have had to make in order to challenge the hypothesis of a terrorist association, we note that the “crime-purpose” of greater gravity (the explosive attack on the barracks of the Carabinieri of San Giovanni in Rome on December 7, 2017) is situated temporally outside the period that according to the prosecution would see the birth of the associative association (summer 2018) and that one of the defendants (accused of the fire of some cars of the car sharing Enijoy owned by ENI) would not even be part of the above association. The rest of the contested crimes concern events of modest importance from an accusatory point of view such as protests, demonstrations, defacements, damages, so far insufficient alone to support charges of terrorism.
At the trial level, a first crack in the ROS story occurred when the defense made their own experts testify about the counter-expertise they had carried out. As far as the action against the Carabinieri barracks in S. Giovanni is concerned, in fact, the accusations against a defendant (the only one to be charged for that attack) are based almost exclusively on two expert reports of the prosecution, one of anthropometric and chromatic type, and another of postural type. Through these they wanted to demonstrate that the height and the type of walk of the accused were the same of a subject framed by the security cameras, as well as that the coat usually used by the same was corresponding at chromatic level to that used in the moment of the action. The defense experts have radically refuted the arguments of the other party, highlighting all the “errors” of method and approach present in the accusatory reports. This hearing was decisive for Claudio’s release in July 2021, after 13 months in prison, most of which were spent in solitary confinement, being at that time the last defendant still in prison.
At this point, we believe that some words should be spent regarding the use of expert reports by the prosecution. Let us premise that we are well aware of what ROS is and what purposes it has been called upon to pursue over time. In fact, the special operations it deals with often concern the darkest plots of the state, in which economic and political interests are intertwined, often becoming an internal struggle for power, a struggle in which this body of the Carabinieri has had its role. It boasts in its “curriculum service” a general condemned in the first degree for international drug dealing, another for complicity in mafia association and violence or threats to a political body of the state, plus several officers investigated and convicted for the same events, as well as for aiding and abetting two famous mafia fugitives and the diversion of various investigations against the mafia. In short, a nice “piece of state”. Certainly we do not believe in justice, much less in the truth of the courts, nevertheless these data seem to us in some way indicative.
With this background picture we certainly do not expect from them any moral integrity: their methods of investigation against dellx anarchicx have proved over the years to say the least dubious, if not rotten to the core, including confidants blackmailed and artfully fabricated evidence, taking care to discard any exculpatory element. And this is true also for the case that concerns us. In fact, the expert reports appear to have been drawn up “on commission” by two people who, in all evidence, have already worked closely with the ROS in the past. What emerges, therefore, is a real practice in the construction of the prosecution’s evidence: well-known experts are contacted and technical reports are requested which, like any technical argument, appear objective to laymen’s eyes. With these reports we have “evidence” that otherwise would not be available and that can lead to arrests, then it will be up to the accused to defend himself by hiring an expert to refute on a technical level the thesis of the prosecution. There are two elements that we find interesting to underline about this practice that certainly does not concern only subversive circles. The first one concerns the class character of this method: technical experts are often experts on very specific subjects, on some of them (as for example forensic genetics) they are counted on the tip of one hand all over the country and their consultations are consequently paid by the pound. It is immediately understandable how “the right to defence” is so subject to the economic possibilities of the accused. The other element concerns the value that “scientific knowledge” is acquiring within society, and therefore also within the courtrooms. A “technical” opinion appears in itself cloaked by a superpartes objectivity that incredibly fascinates those who are called to judge human responsibilities and conduct. But as we will never tire of reminding ourselves, there is no science that is impartial with respect to its applications, which will always be subject to individual will. It takes very little in fact to line up some numbers, quote two algebraic formulas together with some famous names, to pass a method of investigation as scientific when trying, as in this case, to establish the height of a moving subject portrayed by a night camera. Modern day witch doctors are selling smoke in the king’s court….
As far as the attack against the three cars of the carsharing company Enijoy is concerned, ENI’s lawyer, a certain Scilla Malagodi, is actively trying to bring to the attention of the court the elements that in her opinion could support the aggravating circumstance of terrorism. The persistent effort by the lawyer to frame the action against the three cars in a campaign of struggle against ENI should certainly be read as an attempt to obtain a sentence in which this aggravating circumstance would be confirmed.
Already in the past the Italian repressive apparatus has shown to be particularly attentive to the needs of the multinational: on May 23, 2011 for example, the head of security of ENI gave an interview stating that ENI was under attack by Al Qaeda abroad and by anarchists in Italy. On April 6, just two weeks later, with Operation Outlaw, the Digos of Bologna seized the documentation space Fuoriluogo, which was conducting a public campaign against the six-legged dog, and put under arrest six compagnx. Not to mention the countless Italian military missions abroad that, despite being classified as “humanitarian”, hide instead the economic-strategic need to protect ENI’s interests and mining infrastructure, or all the efforts that are constantly made by institutions to cover up the responsibilities of this company in environmental pollution.
In the current process a possible confirmation, in case of conviction, of the aggravating circumstance of terrorism for the burning of the three Enijoy cars would mean that any attack against ENI could in the future be handled under the premises of terrorism legislation.
Another element that we are interested in indicating is the fact that the attention of the ROS for the Bencivenga Occupato, and consequently for the people who gravitated around it at the time, was attracted in April 2017 with the last meeting of the cycle “Sempre a Testa Alta” (Always Head Up) in solidarity the investigated and the arrested of the Operation Scripta Manent, and by the diffusion of the appeal “Per un Giugno Pericoloso” (For a Dangerous June). It is for this reason that Bencivenga’s monitoring was already active on the morning of December 7, the day of the S. Giovanni attack.
A peculiarity of this investigation that we would like to point out is the absolute lack of any promoter of the association, that is to say, of that figure of leadership character that any association must have according to the Italian penal code. We are not sure that this is a novelty in an absolute sense, but we read in it the attempt of the repressive institutions to make a /horizontal/ organization pass at the legal level, so as to create a precedent to be able to apply more easily anarchist associative crimes. In fact, over the years there have been many anti-terrorist operations against anarchists, operations that have been punctually broken in the past on the impossibility of attributing to them certain forms of organization verticistiche schematized in the penal code on the model of the Marxist-Leninist matrix of the fight organizations and those criminal, as well as conduct and purposes specifically terrorist.
Leaving aside here the debate on whether terrorism is a strategy of struggle more or less claimable by the anarchists, we want on this occasion to remove any specter of victimhood that hovers around our words: we consider repression an obvious consequence of the clash in being, and the tools and forms that this takes the result of the specific historical and cultural context in which we operate. It would therefore be appropriate that once understood the latter, as well as the dynamics of our repression, anyone who moves within environments that make anarchism and the fight against the state their aggregative poles is prepared ethically, psychologically and practically to the possibility of this kind of accusations.
We take this opportunity to thank all those who have supported us with thought and action, and to send a greeting of solidarity to anarchist prisoners in the world, to those who are deprived of their freedom and those who are in the wild.