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Labor law expert and government consultant Marco Biagi was killed in Bologna at 8:07 pm on March 19, 2002, twenty years ago. He was assassinated by the New Red Brigades for the Construction of the Fighting Communist Party, a terrorist group born ten years after the dissolution of the original Red Brigades. Biagi was a well-known professor of labor law, consultant to various labor ministers and above all in charge of one law which would come into force one year after his death, designed to bring greater flexibility to the labor market also through the creation of project contracts.
He was chosen as a target by the terrorists precisely because he dealt with the labor market, just like Massimo D’Antona, another labor lawyer assassinated in Rome three years earlier, on May 20, 1999. D’Antona’s murder took place eleven years after the last murder committed by the Red Brigades, that of the senator of the Christian Democrats Roberto Ruffilli, assassinated in Forlì on April 16, 1988.
But Biagi became a target also because he had been deprived of his escort for a few months. Cinzia Banelli, a repentant terrorist, said during her testimony at the trial: “If Marco Biagi had had an escort we would not have been able to kill him.” It had been taken from him after the attacks of 11 September: the danger of attacks by the Islamist terrorist was considered a priority and the stocks were reassigned giving priority to who could be the target of armed actions by al Qaeda.
There were two investigations into the failure to assign the escort: the then Minister of the Interior Claudio Scajola and the police chief Gianni De Gennaro were investigated. The first investigation was closed, the second ended in 2015 with the declaration of prescription of the crime of negligent cooperation in manslaughter. Biagi, in the months preceding his death, had said he had been threatened by telephone and had written several times to the Minister of the Interior asking for the supply to be restored.
The controversy over the non-assignment of the escort also had a sensational consequence on 30 June 2002 when Minister Scajola, on an official visit to Cyprus, was asked why a central figure like Biagi was not protected by an escort. The minister replied with this sentence: «Don’t make me talk. Central figure Biagi? Let Maroni tell you if he was a central figure: he was a pain in the ass who wanted the renewal of the consultancy contract ». The minister’s words were reported by the Corriere della Sera. Three days later Scajola resigned.
On the occasion of the trip to Cyprus, Scajola had also said: «In Bologna they hit Biagi who was without protection, but if there had been an escort there would have been three dead. And then I ask you: in these weeks’ negotiations onarticle 18 how many people should we protect? Virtually all of them ». In fact, during those weeks a heated debate was underway regarding article 18 of the workers’ statute, which protects employees from the possibility of unlawful dismissal. The parties of the Berlusconi government aimed to abolish the article while the unions strongly opposed it. For March 22, a demonstration in defense of article 18 had been called in Rome by the CGIL, which was then held with enormous participation.
Biagi had been a consultant to the Minister of Labor Tiziano Treu in 1995 and then Representative of the Italian government in the European Union Employment and Labor Market Committee. In 1998 he collaborated, as a consultant, with another Minister of Labor, Antonio Bassolino, and in 2000 he participated in the drafting of the Pact for Milan, a collaboration agreement on labor issues between the center-right council of the Municipality and some unions. The following year he had become a consultant to the Minister of Labor Roberto Maroni, with whom he worked on the bill which later became 30/2003, known as the Biagi law.
The evening he was killed, Biagi arrived, as every day, at the Bologna station after having finished teaching at the University of Modena, where he was a professor of Economics. He recovered the bicycle, parked at the station, and headed home, in via Valdonica. Two people were following his movements: they warned the three accomplices who were in the house of the labor lawyer waiting for him. Two of them, arrived at the site of the attack on scooters, and with full helmets, fired six shots. The third Brigadier, on the lookout, escaped on foot.
At the trial against the perpetrators of the attack a girl who was that evening in the Freedom café in via Valdonica told what she had seen: “I heard noises and a cry for help, I looked at the door of the café and saw Biagi who he fell to the ground with his bike almost on his feet and two people close by, one shooting him. Biagi was lying in front of his door with his head turned towards the square. There were two of them, one was forward leaning towards him and firing. I heard that he was screaming for help and asking for mercy. ” In what sense pity? Asked the judge: «’Please help me’, were his last words». He said the girl again: «The barrel was covered with a newspaper or something … I saw one shot and I heard one. So I hid in the room under a bench and called the carabinieri on my cell phone ».
The claim came a few hours after the murder: it was mailed to over 500 addresses. It was written:
“On March 19, 2002 in Bologna, an armed nucleus of our Organization, executed Marco Biagi consultant to the Minister of Labor Maroni, creator and promoter of the lines and legislative formulations of a project to remodel the regulation of the exploitation of wage labor, and the redefinition of both the new corporate relations between the Executive, Confindustria and the confederal trade union, as well as the function of the neo-corporate negotiation in relation to the new model of representative democracy “.
Investigations established that it was the same gun that D’Antona had been shot with. Telephone records were analyzed and videos taken at the Bologna station at the time of Biagi’s arrival by train from Modena. On October 31, 2002, two arrest orders were issued, against Nadia Desdemona Lioce and Fausto Galesi, both untraceable. Lioce, whose name had already appeared in the investigation into the D’Antona murder, had no pending charges with justice while Galesi, already convicted of armed robbery, was escaped from house arrest. Some members of the historical nucleus of the Red Brigades were also investigated who, according to the suspicions of the investigators, had coordinated or helped, from inside the prisons, the actions of the new terrorist group. However, the suspicions towards them soon fell.
On 3 March 2003, on board an interregional train between Rome and Florence, three railway police officers asked two people, a man and a woman, for documents. The documents, false, made one of the agents suspicious who phoned the central to ask for feedback. At that point the man, who turned out to be Fausto Galesi, drew his gun and fired, killing the superintendent Emanuele Petri. Another agent, Bruno Fortunato, although wounded, managed to shoot killing the brigatista while Lioce, who had not removed the safety from the pistol and had not been able to shoot, was immobilized by the third agent, Giovanni Di Fronzo. The train was brought to the Castiglion Fiorentino station where Lioce was taken into custody and two backpacks containing computers, telephone cards, cell phones, two computers and many notes were seized.
Thanks to the seized material, the investigations led to other people: Roberto Morandi, Cinzia Banelli, Marco Mezzasalma and Simone Boccaccini, all involved in the preparation and execution of the attack in Biagi. A few months later the Roman hideout of the Nuove Brigate Rosse was discovered, in via Montecuccoli, and Diana Blefari Melazzi was arrested, filmed while she was taking documents away from the den to move them elsewhere.
While the others declared themselves political prisoners, Banelli began to collaborate with the magistrates by helping to reconstruct the actions of the group.
Lioce, Morandi, Mezzasalma and Blefari Melazzi were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Biagi. The penalty for Boccaccini was 21 years in prison. Lioce, Morandi and Mezzasalma were sentenced to life imprisonment also for their involvement in the murder of D’Antona, a crime for which the material perpetrator was identified as Fausto Galesi. Nadia Desdemona Lioce was also sentenced for the attacks on the headquarters of the Guarantee Commission for the strike, on that of the CISL in Milan (both in 2000) and on the International Affairs Institute of Rome in 2001, as well as for four robberies in Tuscany , between 1998 and 2003. Cinzia Banelli was sentenced to 15 years and six months for the Biagi murder and 12 years for the D’Antona murder. As a collaborator of justice she has now changed her identity: she is free and lives in a secret place.
Diana Blefari Melazzi, detained under the 41bis regime, committed suicide on October 31, 2009 in her cell in the Roman prison of Rebibbia. On April 10, 2010, the Polfer agent Bruno Fortunato also committed suicide, who had participated in the shooting on the Rome-Florence train in which his colleague Petri and the Brigadier Galesi were killed.
Lioce, Morandi and Mezzasalma are still detained under the 41bis regime. The decision that imposes hard prison on them was renewed last September, with the motivation that “the terrorist association is still operating and is still engaged in proselytizing activities as well as planning very serious crimes”.