Carabinieri, min ask Cucchi plaintiffs

In cover-up case, 8 Carabinieri implicated inc commanders

(ANSA) - Rome, May 21 - The Carabinieri corps and the defence ministry on Tuesday asked to be civil plaintiffs in the alleged police brutality death of Rome draughtsman Stefano Cucchi in 2009.
    They asked to be considered injured parties in a new trial against eight Carabinieri including commanding officers accused of covering up the alleged brutality.
    In an initial trial, a Carabiniere defendant turned prosecution witness has accused three fellow Carabinieri of beating Cucchi so severely that he died of his injuries.
    In the fresh preliminary hearing, Cucchi's family also filed to be civil plaintiffs as they are in the first trial, as well as Carabiniere Roberto Casamassima, prison guards, the military trade union and activist group Cittadinanzattiva.
    On May 15 Casamassima, one of the key witnesses in the cover-up case, was accused of drug pushing.
    Casamassima, who has accused other Carabinieri of covering up the Cucchi beating, has been accused by an unnamed informant.
    Casamassima said a search of his home did not turn up any drugs, as erroneously reported in the press.
    "No drugs were found," he said.
    "This is the umpteenth attempt to delegitimise and intimidate me," he said.
    Casamamassima is one of the key witnesses in the high-profile case, along with fellow cop Francesco Tedesco, another policeman who has become a witness for the prosecution.
    Last month Tedesco told a court about the alleged brutality that allegedly caused the death in custody of Rome draughtsman Cucchi in 2009.
    For several years the case looked set to end without anyone being brought to justice for Cucchi's death, allegedly because of a cover-up.
    But a breakthrough came when Tedesco, one of five Carabinieri on trial in relation to Cucchi's death, accused two others of the beating that allegedly caused it.
    "I say sorry to the Cucchi family and the penitentiary police officers who were defendants in the first trial (into the case)," Francesco Tedesco told a Rome court.
    "The last few years have been an insurmountable wall for me".
    Tedesco told the court that, after refusing to have his fingerprints taken, Cucchi was slapped hard by another defendant, Alessio Di Bernardo.
    He said that Cucchi fell to the floor and hit his head.
    Tedesco said that another defendant, Raffaele D'Alessandro, then kicked Cucchi in the face.
    "It was not easy to report my colleagues," Tedesco said.
    "The first person whom I told what happened was my lawyer. I hadn't told anyone in my life for 10 years...
    "To say I was scared is not enough. I was literally terrorised.
    "I was alone against a sort of wall. I panicked when I realized that my service notes had vanished".
    He said that a superior, Marshall Roberto Mandolini, told him that "you have to follow the line of the force if you want to continue to be a Carabiniere".
    "I sense a threat in his words," Tedesco said.
    Cucchi's sister Ilaria, who has staged a tireless campaign for justice for her brother, expressed satisfaction at Tedesco's testimony.
    "After 10 years of lies and cover-ups, the truth came into this courtroom told by the live voice of who was present that day," she said.
    Ilaria Cucchia also welcomed support from the commander of the Carabinieri who said the corps would stand as plaintiff in the case.
    "The statements and intentions expressed by the corps general commander make us finally feel less alone, he has lined up officially on the side of the truth," she said.
    General Giovanni Nistri, the commander of the Carabinieri police force, reportedly pledged that he wants to get to the bottom of the death in a letter to Ilaria Cucchi sister.
    "We have the same impatience as you to see full light shed on every aspect of the death of your brother so that the it is possible to adopt the consequent measures against those who failed to do their duty and respect the oath they swore," Nistri said in the letter dated March 11, which La Repubblica published on Monday.