So, what is “devastation and looting” about? In this specific circumstance, as they are 2 connected but different alleged crimes, we speak about ‘devastation': basically, it is a special alleged crime of damage. ‘Devastation’ occurs when there are multiple and reiterated such episodes in a specific temporal context, and when this repeated process involves a public order issue.
After the G8 in Genoa, a long series of lawsuits took place in Italy -and one of those was precisely connected with ‘devastation and looting’ crimes- in relation to some events that happened during the demo, especially in the context of the Marassi prison assault. In that occasion, there have been substantial sentences for devastation and looting. Some people from Milan, as for example Marina Cugnaschi, are already in prison for 3 years and are condemned to 11 years and a half of detention.
After that occasion, the article of law n°419 has been used more and more widely in the context of political uprisings: for an antifascist demo in Milan, on March 11, 2006, when 16 people were sentenced to 4 years in prison for devastation and looting, thanks to some mitigating circumstances and because they chose the “abbreviated trial procedure” which involves some reduction in the fines. Devastation and looting was also used against some activists, for the episodes that happened during the huge demo in Rome on October 11, 2011 that ended up in clashes. More recently, it has been used by Cremona public prosecutors for a demo in response to an attack by Casa Pound fascists. Also NoExpo protesters have been charged with devastation and looting. Finally, it is worth underlining that, besides the political context, this charge has been used during the years mainly to punish clashes during sport events.
During the postwar period, this charge was used to punish those who participated in the revolt following the murder of the communist party leader Palmiro Togliatti. Then, it disappeared until 1998, when it was brushed up “ad hoc” to punish those who participated in the 4th of April wide demo (more then 10,000 people), following the controversial death in prison of the anarchist and no-tav activist Edoardo “Baleno” Massari, which ended up in stone throwing against the courthouse of Turin. Again in Turin, it was used again in 2005, in a very similar to Cremona situation, involving a fascist attack to Barocchio squat.
As far as I understood, this alleged crime does not exist in the Greek penal code. That’s why it is so difficult to understand from Greece what’s happening in Italy. Unfortunately, this charge is thriving in Italy. It is an alleged crime that obviously involves jail time. In this specific context, the public prosecutor asked for it the first days of November and the judge accepted it on the 9th.
Both the Italians and the Greeks have been identified through videos. They show, in a very generic way, these people without disguise. Later during the demo, they are identified by some details on their clothes as the perpetrators. That is mainly resistance to police and, in some cases, damages. Anyway, also those who are seen committing just resistance actions are charged with devastation and looting, as they aided and abetted ,with their behaviour, even morally, the action of people smashing cars, bank windows and setting fire to the stores. Therefore, they are charged with devastation and looting too. This is in short what’s written in the arrest warrant. So, even though it has been talked a lot about DNA, the only investigation conducted by DIGOS (criminal investigation and special operations police dept., ndr) is based on simple photographic and video identification. This is the situation.
It is clearly visible that a significant discrepancy has been created between the measures established by the Italian judge, that is jail detention, and the other established by the Greek one, pending the decision about the extradition of the five, even thought I don’t really know many details about it. For the moment, the only I know is that on the 13th of November it has been established that the guys must appear and sign 3 times a week at the police station and they cannot leave the country.
Concerning the 5 people arrested in Italy, we are going to appeal to the Freedom court. It is an appeal court, formed by three judges, with the aim of establishing whether this detention measure pending the trial is fair or not. That is, if it is based on adequate legal elements and, most of all, if it fits the real instance we are talking about. It has to be said that, in Italy, it is very common for this kind of charges to end up in detention measures. Nevertheless, in this specific case, it seems to be largely unjustified. In fact, a judge should establish detention measures in order to prevent crime reiteration, just in case those released go to other demos and commit crimes of this sort again. Yet, this is totally abstract and lacks any concrete base. From May 1 till now indeed, no demo of this sort has taken place and the guys didn’t commit further crimes. These are the facts we are going to expose to the Freedom court, but our victory should not be taken for granted. The best case scenario is house arrest -a measure that, as far as I know, doesn’t exist in Greece- but it is still uncertain. It’s not easy. Moreover, for two of these people this is the first lawsuit ever, and four of them have never been in jail before.
Concerning the Greeks, should the judge decide their extradition, they would undergo jail detention in Italy and it would be harder for them eventually to achieve house arrest, as they should indicate a suitable residence in Italy and this is generally a very difficult procedure, unless they find someone willing to guest them. By the way, it is generally difficult for a foreigner to achieve house arrest. On the contrary, shouldn’t the extradition be granted, the guys would stay in Greece with the ongoing restrictive measures until the trial. But still, it is not possible to predict clearly if they will be extradited or not, also because this European arrest warrant is a kind of new thing. During its short existence it has been used very few time, and generally for more serious cases (trafficking, terrorism, etc.). Actually, this the very first time for the European arrest warrant to be used in public order issues.