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Veneto separatists arrested for suspected 'terrorism'

24 arrested, tried to turn tractor into sort of tank

02 April, 11:32
Veneto separatists arrested for suspected 'terrorism' (ANSA) - Venice, April 2 - Italian police on Wednesday arrested 24 Veneto separatists suspected of crimes that include criminal association for terrorism and subversion of the democratic order.

The people arrested included former MP Franco Rocchetta, the founder of the Liga Veneta (Veneto League) separatist party.

Police seized a tractor that they said the suspects had unsuccessfully tried to turn into a sort of tank by attaching a canon to it for an attention-grabbing protest in Venice's St Mark's Square. The economic crisis has increased support for independence in the northeastern region of Veneto, where many blame central government for bleeding local businesses dry with high taxation.

Last month separatists organized an unofficial referendum in which an overwhelming majority of participants voted in favour of leaving Italy.

Organizers said some two million people took part in the poll, but this figure has been challenged by many critics. The Liga Veneta was a founding member of Northern League, a federation of regionalist parties.

The League has recently upped its drive for greater autonomy for wealthy northern regions and started calling for outright independence again, the original demand of its early years.