[Antonio Negri, the author of "Marx Beyond Marx", among other works, and "patron saint" of the Autonome groups in Italy in the 1970s, recently returned to Italy after fourteen years in exile. He is in need of the support of other revolutionary socialists and I encourage you all to participate in this E-mail petition campaign. - Peter Urban, Irish Republican Socialist Movement]
Antonio Negri Imprisoned In Italy
Many on the left will have come across Antonio Negri's writings on Marxist theory and related topics. His involvement in Italian politics during the 1970s led to him spending fourteen years in exile - a particularly dramatic version of an experience shared with many politically active academics in the 60s and 70s. What is more unusual about Negri's situation is that he chose to go back after a decade and a half, as an act of support for those who are still in prison or in exile.
The petition at the end of this message calls on the Italian state to introduce an amnesty for all political prisoners from the period and to abrogate the emergency laws under which they were tried. There's an E-mail address for signatures.
Laurence Cox, An Caorthann
FREEDOM FOR TONI NEGRI
PUTTING AN END TO THE "YEARS OF LEAD" IN ITALY
Toni Negri has been in prison in Rome since July 1, 1997. He has been sentenced to more than 13 years in prison, not counting another conviction that is now in the appeal process. After residing in France in exile since 1983, he returned to Italy voluntarily in the hope that his action would contribute to the resolution of the problem of the exiles and prisoners who are wanted or convicted for the political activities of the 1970s in Italy, the so-called "years of lead". About 180 people are still in Italian prisons under these charges and about 150 are in exile, the majority of them in France.
Toni Negri was a professor at the University of Padua and his writings are well-known throughout the world. He was arrested on April 7, 1979 and accused of "armed insurrection against the powers of the State". To support this accusation, his accusers presented him as the secret leader of the Red Brigades, the armed group that had kidnapped and assassinated Aldo Moro, President of the Christian Democratic Party. Negri has always denied this absurd accusation and he was later formally acquitted of this charge. Charges against him were modified numerous times. After four and a half years of preventive detention, he was elected to parliament as a representative of the Radical Party and was consequently released from prison. When the Chamber of Deputies subsequently voted by a narrow margin to strip him of his parliamentary immunity and send him back to prison, he fled to France. The court procedures against him continued in his absence and led to convictions under several charges and in several different trials. At the time, Amnesty International denounced the serious legal irregularities of Negri's trial and those of his colleagues at the University of Padua. During his exile, Toni Negri worked in France as a teacher at the University of Paris VIII, at the College International de Philosophie, and as a social science researcher. He published numerous books during this period.
Due to his notoriety Negri has become the emblematic figure of the Italian radical Left of the 1970s. Beginning in the Autumn of 1969 there began in Italy a period of intense social conflicts that were exacerbated by the very ambiguous role of certain State agencies in what was called a "strategy of tension", in other words, the manipulation of the neo-fascist groups responsible for a deadly bombing campaign at such sites as Piazza Fontana and the Bologna train station. The radicalization of the Italian extra-parliamentary Left and the social movements led a large number of activists toward the path of wide-spread political violence and a few of them toward armed struggle. Between 1976 and 1980, tens of thousands of activists were pursued by the police and more than five thousand arrested. Hundreds of long-term sentences were handed out on the basis of emergency laws that are still in effect, including principally the so-called law of the "repentants". This law makes the testimony of accused persons who have "repented" the sufficient basis for the conviction of others, and allows for them to be set free in return for having turned State's evidence. Another emergency measure allows for preventive detention to extend retroactively up to twelve years. This measure is radically incompatible with the principles of the rule of law and the basic rules of penal procedure as they are defined by articles 5 and 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights and protected by the European Court of Human Rights. One can assume that the highly contestable nature of such legislation is what has led Italy's democratic neighbors such as France and Great Britain to have serious doubts about these cases and not to act on the majority of the more than seventy requests for extradition presented by Italian authorities, regardless of the political party in power. For the same reason, undoubtedly, the over five hundred refugees who have been accepted in France over these years have never been disturbed or harassed. These refugees have integrated into French society, finding work and building families. Now they do not want to risk their futures and the lives they have constructed in order to resolve twenty-five-year old sentences that were handed down in such dubious emergency conditions.
The object of this appeal should not be interpreted in any way to condone the real or supposed activities of those pursued and convicted for their activities during the "years of lead". The refugees have declared unambiguously that the "war" is over. "That period has ended." A democracy worthy of that name must be able to turn the page. Today these nearly four hundred exiles and prisoners are excluded from Italian society. A problem of this order cannot be resolved on a case by case basis, but must be addressed with a general solution.
A bill for an "indulto" (a reduction of sentences by a vote of parliament) was introduced nine years ago but has not yet come up for a vote. Such a bill would have positive effects, but it would not resolve the refugees' problems. The only solution for Toni Negri and his unfortunate companions would be an amnesty. The only amnesty that has been passed in Italy was in 1946, which Togliatti supported with regard to the fascists. On the other hand, for the activities linked to France's war in Algeria and concerning actions of a gravity more or less equivalent to those committed in the 1970s in Italy, France granted an amnesty to both the deserting soldiers and the members of the OAS.
Since we support the principles of the rule of law and the re-establishment of human rights everywhere for everyone, as Italy prepares for integration into the new Europe, we ask urgently that the Italian members of parliament respond favorably to this appeal for clemency by passing an amnesty law as soon as possible. We also ask the representatives of the European Union to take appropriate measures to insure the swift release of Toni Negri. If he symbolized one era, then his release will symbolize another, calmer one. Finally, by repealing the series of exceptional measures that are incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights, Italy would live up to its central role in the new Europe.
Having understood the circumstances, we support the appeal in favor of the release of Toni Negri in order to put an end to the "years of lead" in Italy.
Toni Negri was in France for fourteen years. He sought refuge there in 1983 after serving four and a half years of preventive detention in Italy. He has now returned voluntarily to Italy where he has been sentenced to prison for eminently political reasons on the basis of an arsenal of emergency measures (such as convictions based solely on the testimony of "repentants" and extended preventive detention) that are incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights.
He has been in prison since July 1, 1997 and his release (which will likely be only a work release) has still not come about. Four hundred people are excluded from Italian society on the basis of political activity conducted twenty years ago. The more than 150 refugees in France do not want to destroy the lives they have constructed in order to address these sentences based on emergency measures. European authorities on the Right and the Left have not extradited the refugees back to Italy, and they have thus expressed sotto voce their disdain for the Italian procedures.
The wide-spread political violence of the Italian social struggles, which has been conflated under the label of Italian "terrorism," is something that ended long ago. Can a democracy apply to those accused of political crimes (twenty years after the fact) measures more severe than those used in common criminal cases? The release of Toni Negri must finally lead toward an amnesty that has been too long in coming. Only the abrogation of the emergency measures and the parliamentary passage of an amnesty bill can finally put an end to the "years of lead". As long as these conditions are not met, we urge the countries of the European Union to guarantee the residency of the Italian exiles. We ask finally that the members of parliament of the other countries of the Union and those of the Strasbourg Assembly do all they can to resolve these problems.
(Include your name or title, address, and telephone, fax, or e-mail address.) an.htm
From: Arm The Spirit
13 Oct 1997
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