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Giuseppe Uva

Giuseppe Uva 150The incident

Giuseppe Uva, aged 43, died at 10:30 am on 14th June 2008 in the psychiatric section of Varese hospital accident and emergency department. The evening before, on 13th June, he had been with his friend and flatmate Alberto Biggiogero. The two of them had been drinking after their evening meal and when the bar closed at 2 am they headed for the town centre. They were quite animated from drinking and when they came across some traffic barriers stacked up in Via Dandolo they moved them into the middle of the road so that no traffic could get down the street. At 3 am a Carabinieri patrol car caught up with them and – according to the statement made by Biggiogero at the Varese Public Prosecutor's office – one of the two Carabinieri police officers got out of the patrol car and ran after Giuseppe shouting “Uva, just who I'm looking for tonight. Don't think you're going to get off lightly with this, I'm going to make you pay”. Biggiogero suggested putting the traffic barriers back again, but the two Carabinieri chased Uva to Piazza XXVI Maggio where they caught him and threw him to the ground. Biggiogero tried to intervene but was pushed away and slapped. The Carabinieri accused Uva and Biggiogero of having moved a rubbish bin into the middle of the road. Uva was then bundled into a patrol car and Biggiogero into another one that arrived shortly afterwards, despite asking to go in the same car as Giuseppe because he was worried that the violence against his friend was going to continue.

They were taken to the Carabinieri police station in Via Saffi. Biggiogero was kept in the waiting room with some Carabinieri and other police officers, while Uva was in another room. Biggiogero tells of hearing the desperate shouts of his friend punctuated by thudding blows. He also tells of trying to get to him but of being stopped by four police officers and beaten. Then, once only, he called the 118 emergency ambulance number, saying “they're massacring a guy” (the transcripts of the telephone calls between Biggiogero and the 118 emergency telephone operators and then between the 118 emergency telephone operators and the police station were submitted as evidence), but no ambulance came. Shortly afterwards, Biggiogero's father arrived to take his son home, but he didn't want to go without his friend Giuseppe. The Carabinieri say that Uva had hurt himself by hitting and beating himself repeatedly and that he couldn't leave. The emergency doctor arrived. Biggiogero couldn't hear the shouting any more and, reassured by this, went home, and this is how his statement ends. It was 5 am, and Uva died at 10:30 the same morning. After Biggiogero and his father left, a call was made from a mobile phone to the 118 emergency ambulance number about a patient “going crazy”, requesting a compulsory treatment order.
Giuseppe Uva was taken to the Circolo hospital accident and emergency department and from there, at 8.30 am, was transferred to the psychiatric section where he was to die. In accident and emergency he was given a series of drugs (promazine hydrochloride , promethazine hydrochloride and lorazepam) followed by delorazepam. The statement made by the officer in charge of the Police Office in Circolo hospital emphasises a number of important points: that Uva's death was not a “non-traumatic event”, that there are a number of serious omissions – such as no mention of bruises and injuries – in the patient's medical record, his underpants were missing, that there were stains on the back of his trousers and that he had no previous psychiatric history. Giuseppe's sister, Lucia Uva – with the help of lawyers Fabio Anselmo, Alessandra Pisa and Fabio Ambrosetti – is seeking the truth, with the support of numerous organisations. Adriano Chiarelli and Francesco Menghini have made a docufilm about the incident with the motto of the Italian Carabinieri in the title: "Faithful Through the Centuries – The Case of Giuseppe Uva". Chiarelli, Lucia Uva, the journalist Mauro Casciari from the TV programme Iene and the director of the TV channel Italia Uno Luca Tiraboschi have all been sued for defamation.

The trial

The defendants in the initial manslaughter inquiry were the three doctors from the Varese hospital accident and emergency department and psychiatric section, charged with administering drugs to Uva that were both unnecessary and incompatible with his drunken state and that the combination of those drugs with alcohol had “irreversibly damaged the vital functions of the injured party”, causing cardiorespiratory failure and fatal pulmonary edema. In the preliminary hearing in December 2010 the judge decided that there were no grounds for proceeding against the accident and emergency doctor. Uva's body was exhumed for further examination, and the expert's report noted the presence of fractures and injuries. Despite the Preliminary Hearing Judge's request for clarification about the time Uva spent in the Carabinieri police station, Public Prosecutor Agostino Abate did not investigate this matter and was thus subject to two disciplinary proceedings, one conducted by the Ministry of Justice and the other by the Court of Cassation Public Prosecutor's Office, charged with having inexplicably shelved the investigations into the eight Carabinieri and police officers.

The testimony of Alberto Biggiogero, the only witness, was not heard until November 2013. Biggiogero, five and a half years after the death of his friend, was questioned by Public Prosecutor Abate for over four hours, and audio-video footage has been made available of this encounter. The impression that the Public Prosecutor gave during the interview was that he wanted to demolish the witness's every word, by not listening to the things he said and putting him in difficulty, thus going against all the rules of questioning people with information to impart. Parts of this confrontation were published recently by the newspaper La Repubblica and A Buon Diritto. On 11th March 2014 Judge Giuseppe Battarino rejected the request made by Public Prosecutor Abate to dismiss the case against the two Carabinieri and six Polizia police officers and ordered their indictment; the lawyer acting for the Polizia and Carabinieri, Luca Marsico, intends to appeal to the Court of Cassation against this order. On 20th March 2014 Public Prosecutors Agostino Abate and Sara Arduini formalised the indictment, the alleged offences being voluntary manslaughter, unlawful arrest, coercion and abandonment of an incapacitated person; they also filed a request to arrange the preliminary hearing and commit the eight defendants to trial. But Chief Prosecutor Felice Isnardi, in a dramatic move, took the case out of the hands of the two public prosecutors and assigned it to himself, because in his opinion the counts of indictment formulated by Abate and Arduini did not comply with “the Preliminary Hearing Judge's instructions” and were of “an illogical and contradictory form with regard to the alleged offences”, or rather, the two public prosecutors had formulated the indictment in such a way as to make it difficult to sustain the charges. Lucia Uva expressed her satisfaction at this development, remarking that it was only now, freed of the obstructions of the two public prosecutors, that the “real trial” could begin, because, in her opinion, they had been “working against it” from the very start.

Recently, new evidence has come to light, in a testimony given first of all to the TV programme Chi l’ha visto? (Who saw it?) and then to the Varese Public Prosecutor's Office, resulting in the counts of indictment for assault and battery and voluntary manslaughter being extended to the Circolo hospital in Varese. The witness, a specialised nursing auxiliary, hadn't seen the beating directly but she had heard whoever was holding Uva up threatening to “give him a thrashing” if he didn't stop complaining. Uva was then taken into the bathroom and when he came back he wasn't talking any more. She was asked for a stretcher to lie him down on and pointed one out. Then she heard Uva, when he was close to her, saying that he had been beaten and an officer answering that he had “beaten himself” by banging his head against the wall.

In the preliminary hearing on 9th June 2014, completely unexpectedly, Dr. Isnardi asked the Preliminary Hearing Judge to pass a sentence of no grounds to proceed for all the offences that he himself had included in the counts of indictment, except for those regarding Article 608 of the Italian Penal Code (abuse of power against arrested persons), but with reference only to the beatings that Uva had been given in the Carabinieri police station and not those in the hospital, for which he requested no grounds to proceed. These requests contradicted the decisions made previously by Isnardi himself in the reformulation of the counts of indictment; in the case file he makes explicit reference to Uva being beaten not only in a room in the Carabinieri police station but also "in the rooms of the Circolo hospital in Varese". The date of the hearing in which the Judge decides who is to face trial was set for 30th June. On 20th October 1914, the trial over the death of Giuseppe Uva finally began.

Published: Wednesday, 18 February 2015 18:57

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