A major political row broke out on Tuesday when Giovanni Donzelli, a member of Premier Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing Brothers of Italy (FdI) group, questioned in the Lower House if the opposition centre-left Democratic Party was on the side of the State or that of terrorists.
Speaking during discussion of the creation of an anti-mafia commission for the current parliamentary term, Donzelli referred to the case of jailed anarchist leader Alfredo Cospito. The anarchist has been on hunger strike for over 100 days. He is protesting against the tough 41 bis jail regime he is being held under.
The 41 bis is usually reserved for top mafia bosses. Donzelli said the mafia was using Cospito to have the jail regime abolished. He claimed that four PD lawmakers, including former justice minister Andrea Orlando and Lower House Whip Debora Serracchiani visited Cospito on January 12 and “encouraged him in the battle”.
“So I want to know if the Left is on the side of the State or that of the terrorists,” Donzelli added.
The comments led to uproar in the Lower House. The PD demanded Donzelli apologise. They said his words had broken the unity of Italy’s parties on the fight against the mafia.
Serracchiani said Donzelli’s words were “extremely serious” and had a “content and character of criminal significance”. She also called on Meloni to say whether she agreed with them.
However, Donzelli refused to apologise, saying the Left should say sorry for “stuttering over Cospito”. Whilst there was no word as to whether Donzelli had Meloni’s support, sources said he did have the backing of Deputy Premier and Infrastructure Minister Matteo Salvini.
The Italian media report Cospito’s hunger strike is aimed at getting the 41 bis regime scrapped completely for all prisoners. That includes jailed mafiosi.
The regime was first introduced for domestic rightist and leftists terrorists in the mid 1980s. It was later stiffened for mafia dons following an all-out by the brotherhoods’ assault on the State.