Reportage. A judge sentenced 38 protesters for a July 3, 2011, demonstration. The defense called many of the sentences overly harsh.

Prosecutor compares Italian protesters to FARC rebels

The collective appeals process for 53 anti-TAV railway activists charged in connection with a chaotic July 3, 2011, protest have ended with 38 convictions.

The second degree sentences were modified by time served, reductions of sentences, extenuating circumstances and parole sentences. These are still heavy, but the severity was reduced in comparison to the first degree sentences many faced for throwing stones and firecrackers at police, who had to disperse the crowds with a water canon.

The movement lingers in the bitterness. It sees the sentences as an injustice perpetrated in the name of a legality that does not see the social and economic value of a struggle that wants to save a part of Italian territory from devastation and plunder. “The legitimacy of the prosecution in the first instance was recognized satisfactorily,” said Attorney General Franco Saluzzo. “There were no evident particular moral and social value reasons for attenuating the sentences.”

“This is fine, because I wouldn’t risk going to prison if this were a small matter,” said Mario Nucera, the barber of Bussoleno. “Actually, I did not deserve any penalty, and neither did the others. Because we have acted for a righteous goal, that does not change.” He breathed a sigh of relief: His sentence was reduced from three years and four months to a year and two months. His is the voice of the movement that claims the social and cultural values of the 20th anniversary of the “NoTav” resistance movement.

This vision was rejected by the despotic words of the attorney general, who primed the court with a reckless concept: “If the judges justify violent, anti-democratic and anti-freedom behavior, there is the risk of getting dangerously close to the levels of the FARC.” Many people think the worst of the NoTav movement, but drawing a parallel with the Colombian guerrillas left the courtroom dumbfounded.

The magistrate, after stating that “the struggle of the movement against the TAV may have social value, but it must take place within the scope of the law,” talked about the existence of “fringes and factions that have made a system out of violence that runs around Italy and Europe, but it has nothing to do with legitimate protest movements.”

“We did not like the decision at first instance,” said Claudio Novaro, a lawyer for the defendants. “This is a small step forward, but it is still not enough.” Novaro observed: “Some convictions have been downgraded. There have been cases of recognition of extenuating circumstances and award of conditional freedom. But other convictions are frankly disproportionate with the facts, and we find it hard to understand why. We must recognize the context within which those facts matured.”

The reading of the sentence was drowned by the chants of the accused, who disputed the outcome of the trial. Late in the afternoon, a procession formed, consisting of about 200 demonstrators, who marched to the city center.

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