Italian political prisoners hunger strike against repression

Two Italian anarchists, Anna Beniamino and Silvia Ruggeri, on hunger strike for nearly a month, have now been joined by six more comrades in prisons across the country. Their hunger strike calls for an end to the notorious 41bis political prisoner regime in Italy, and for the closure of the infamous L’Aquila prison.

Anna was arrested as part of “Scripta Manent”, one of the largest political infiltration operations in Italy this century, and aimed at curtailing the activities of the FAI (Informal Anarchist Federation). Silvia was arrested during the eviction of the Turin Asylum Social Centre, occupied since 1995 and targeted earlier this year for eviction specifically by Italian Interior Minister and leader of the Lega political party, Matteo Salvini, in his attempt to crack down on Italy’s strong anarchist and left-wing political culture.

Section 41bis, originally introduced in 1975 in response to the mass imprisonment of communist and anarchist political activists, before being expanded to include Mafiosi and other organised criminals in 1992, has been long criticised as tantamount to torture. The “hard time” it imposes includes strict restrictions on books, clothing, searches at every entrance and exit from the cell, isolation, only two hours of (alone) time outside each day, strict limits on contact with family and friends, light adjustments and other forms of psychological mistreatment by prison guards. In 2007 an American judge refused extradition to Italy on the grounds that exposure to the 41bis regime amounted to torture.

In response to their hunger strike, there have been numerous demonstrations and political occupations across the country. In Bologna on 17 June the historic Asinelli tower was occupied in solidarity, while in L’Aquila itself the Town Hall was occupied. There are more demonstrations planned across the country. Italian rapper Massimo Pericolo has also offered his support in a video on YouTube.

We have reproduced Anna and Silvia’s original statement below.

Statement of Anna and Silvia on their decision to go on hunger strike

We have now been confined for nearly two months in the women’s AS2 [1] section of L’Aquila prison. Both here and outside, the conditions of detention resulting from a regime bearing all the hallmarks of a softened 41bis [2] are well known.

We are convinced that no improvement can or should be sought, and not only because of objective and structural problems with the yellow section (formerly 41bis): the entire prison is almost exclusively allocated to the 41bis regime, and enlarging its maze of sections a little appears to us in bad taste and impractical, given the even more oppressive conditions endured a few steps from here, nor can we avoid thinking of the many who have fought for years, accumulating criminal records and prosecutions. To this can be added the ham-fisted attempt by the DAP [3] to make ends meet by establishing a mixed Anarcho-Islamic section, which resulted only on a further ban on assembly or interaction in the section itself, leading to a state of isolation that persists even now. There of course exist conditions of incarceration, whether standard or exceptional, even worse than those we find in L’Aquila. But this is no reason for us not to oppose those that are imposed on us here.

WE WILL NO LONGER EAT OF THIS BREAD.

On 29 May 2019 we will start a hunger strike, asking to be transferred from this prison and the closure of this infamous section.

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In solidarity with Anna and Silvia another six anarchist prisoners (Alfredo, Giovanni, Leo, Luca, Marco and Vespertino) have joined the hunger strike.

[1] ‘Alta sicurezza 2’ – the high security section of Italian prisons dedicated to those who “have committed crimes with the goal of terrorism, national or international, or of subverting the democratic order through acts of violence” http://www.antigone.it/quattordicesimo-rapporto-sulle-condizioni-di-detenzione/circuiti-e-regimi-detentivi/.

[2] A section of the Italian constitution specifying the treatment of political prisoners and prisoners suspected of involvement in organised crime. It places extensive limitations on the rights of the prisoner, and has been considered torture by many experts.

[3] Dipartimento dell’amministrazione penitenziaria, the equivalent of the HMPS in the UK.