Europe, Headlines, Human Rights

POLITICS-ITALY: Last Chapter of 1970s Armed Struggle Closed

Jorge Pina

ROME, Dec 3 1997 (IPS) - One of the last chapters of the armed struggle of the 1970s was closed in Italy with a court decision authorising an open prison regime for Mario Moretti, the head of the Red Brigades (BR) who killed the prominent Christian Democratic statesman Aldo Moro in 1978.

After 16 years in prison, Moretti will be able to lead an almost normal life as of Wednesday, working and spending time with his wife and one-year-old daughter. But at night he will have to return to his cell in a prison in the northern city of Milan.

The 49-year-old grey-haired Moretti is the last to step foot outside prison of the members of the BR commando which kidnapped the then-president of the once-powerful Christian Democratic party (CD) on Mar. 16, 1978.

Nearly two months later on May 9, Moretti took up a Skorpion machine gun and emptied the cartridge into the exhausted and resigned Moro, who had previously been told by the head of the commando that he would be released.

Moro’s body was found inside an old Renault 4 in Via Caetani in downtown Rome, between the respective headquarters of the CD and the Italian Communist Party (PCI), Italy’s two leading parties at the time.

According to analysts, the location chosen by the brigade members was a key aspect of the kidnapping and murder, aimed at blocking the alliance being woven by Moro. A “historic pledge”, as it had been dubbed, was about to materialise – an accord between the DC and the PCI proposed by the then-secretary general of the latter, Enrico Berlinguer.

Pointing to the Sep. 11, 1973 military coup in Chile which overthrew the democratically elected government of socialist president Salvador Allende, Berlinguer argued that a weak majority was insufficient for governing, and that an alliance between Italy’s two largest parties was needed instead.

That possibility vanished after Moro’s death, and the two parties continued on their separate ways. The DC stayed in the government until it became defunct in 1993, and the PCI remained an opposition force until its transformation into a social democratic party in 1990, the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS).

Today the PDS is the leading force in the centre-left government headed by independent economist Romano Prodi.

A parliamentary commission that launched a probe into the Moro case seriously considered the theory that the BR could have received outside orders “to block the PCI from becoming a part of a government of national solidarity.”

The Milan judges who authorised an open prison regime for Moretti admitted that “a number of doubts remain” with respect to Moro’s kidnapping. They pointed out, for example, that the exact size of the commando had never been completely clarified.

Explaining why Moretti would be allowed to leave prison by day in spite of the question marks still hanging over the murder that shook the very foundations of Italy’s political system, the judges said there was “no certain proof that he knows the answers to those mysteries.”

But the mystery remains despite four trials, the investigation by the parliamentary commission, revelations by repentant members of the BR, and a number of books and films on the incident.

The judges added that the former head of the BR had acknowledged “the total failure of the ideology and actions of the terrorist group, also because the expected participation of the masses did not occur.”

Moretti, who after 12 years in prison confessed that he had killed Moro, told the local press that no such mysteries existed.

In an interview with the daily ‘La Repubblica’, he described the BR – which began to decline after Moro’s murder until it disappeared in the early 1980s – as “a communist organisation, with its own mistakes and enormous responsibilities, but a communist organisation and nothing else. There was no one behind us.”

Giovanni Moro, the son of the late DC leader, criticised the decision, saying “the court has granted this privilege to a prisoner who has consistently refused to clear up so many mysteries that still surround the kidnapping and murder of my father.”

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