Sardinian independence activist freed
Doddore Meloni got home with chains hanging from neck, bruised18 February, 13:00
Police said Salvatore 'Doddore' Meloni "was seen staggering home with chains around his neck and covered in bruises" after his kidnapping Thursday by self-styled 'Guardians of the Nations' who wanted him to pull his ticket from February 24-25 elections. Meloni later told reporters "two masked men pointed a gun at my head and forced me to get into a powerful car heading for Cagliari," the Sardinian capital. Meloni disappeared near his home in the central-western town of Oristano Thursday evening, prompting authorities to launch an anti-kidnapping operation across the Italian island to the west of Tuscany and Lazio.
Police said they were unable to verify the authenticity leaflet claiming responsibility for the disappearance, found in Meloni's abandoned car, from the Guardians of the Nation, a previously unknown group.
Meloni, 69, is a former truck driver who attempted to create a 'micro-nation' called the Republic of Maluentu after seizing the small barren islet of Mal Di Ventre off Oristano in 2008.
Maluentu is Sardinian for Mal di Ventre.
Meloni and his followers, claiming inspiration from secessionist movements in Kosovo, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, declared it to be an independent state as part of broader efforts by larger groups to win the independence of Sardinia.
He declared himself president and set up an official residence in a blue plastic tent, saying the isle was tax-free.
Meloni claimed over 300 had people expressed interest in moving to Maluentu, which was previously a meeting place for the Sardinian Independence Party.
In the summer of 2012 Salvatore Meloni and five others were convicted of the illegal seizure of land.
Mal di Ventre is now owned by British entrepreneur John Miller.