The Italian Almanac

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Adriano Sofri

Sofri is Free

Former leftist militant Adriano Sofri has been freed after serving a jail term for ordering the murder of a police commissioner in the 1970s. Sofri, 69, an intellectual and writer, had been under house arrest for health reasons since 2007 and had been permitted furloughs. In 1990 he was given a 22-year sentence for the 1972 murder of Milan police ommissioner Luigi Calabresi. In November 2005 he almost died after suffering a ruptured oesophagus. His sentence was subsequently suspended and he has been convalescing ever since. Parole judges ruled he could serve out the rest of his sentence at his home in the small town of Impruneta near Florence.

The ex-leader of Lotta Continua, a hard-left political movement active during the 1970s, was found guilty of the Calabresi murder along with two former fellow militants, Ovidio Bompressi and Giorgio Pietrostefani. The trials, appeals and various retrials of the three, who were first arrested in 1988, marked one of the most complicated and drawn-out cases in Italian legal history. The convictions were definitively upheld in 2000. Bompressi was granted a presidential pardon for health reasons in May 2006 while Pietrostefani fled to France to avoid jail.

Commissioner Calabresi was gunned down in front of his Milan home on May 7, 1972. He had become a figure of loathing in hard-left circles after anarchist Pino Pinelli fell to his death in suspicious circumstances from a window at Milan's police headquarters in 1969. The case was the subject of Nobel prize winner Dario Fo's best-known work Accidental Death of an Anarchist. In 1971, Calabresi was put under investigation for Pinelli's murder but charges were dropped because of lack of evidence.

Sofri's supporters have been long been lobbying for a presidential pardon for the former militant. But Sofri's case is more complicated than that of Bompressi because he has always made a point of never asking for a pardon himself, saying that this would be an admission of guilt. Sofri, who has always maintained his innocence, has become a columnist, mostly for the left-leaning daily La Repubblica, and a pacifist intellectual who regularly contributes to the country's political debate.