IFJ Demands “Immediate Release” of Italian Journalist for Investigating Flawed Murder Investigation

Today the International Federation of Journalists supported its Italian affiliate, the Federazione Nazionale della Stampa Italiana, in demanding the immediate release of journalist Mario Spezi, who has been in jail since 7 April. His arrest follows a long running public dispute with the judiciary over his investigations into a series of murders that took place in the region of Florence between 1968 and 1985. His findings were about to be published in a book a few days later.

“We are appalled that an investigative journalist can be jailed for daring to criticise the official investigation in a criminal case” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “Not only are the charges against Mr Spezi unclear, but the criminal prosecution of a journalist is in total breach of press freedom. We simply do not see any reason to keep Mr Spezi in Jail”.

Mr Spezi seems to be accused of defaming Italian judges and of conducting his own probe in the murder cases, although the official charges have not been made public. He appeared several times on talk-shows between 2000 and 2002, expressing criticisms of the judiciary in its handling of the investigation into a series of eight murders that had labelled Pietro Pacciani “the monster of Florence” in 1994. Mr Pacciani died in jail in 1998 while awaiting a retrial after his initial guilty verdict was quashed in a court of appeal.

In 2004, the police seized Mr Spezi’s hard disk, notebooks, address books, e-mail correspondence as well as the draft of a book he was writing together with senior US journalist Douglas Preston.

On 7 April, a few days before the publication of the book by Mr Spezi and Mr Preston, a special police unit (Gruppo Investigativo Delitti Seriali, GIDES), arrested Mr Spezi at his home and transferred him to the central jail in Perugia, where he has since remained. Following this arrest, Mr Preston declared that he was afraid of travelling to Italy and that he feared harassment by the police.

Under Italian law preventive detention is only foreseen for serious crimes, which is clearly not the case for a journalist whose greatest offense seems to have written articles and books that embarrass the judiciary and challenge the official inquiry.

The IFJ says that the immediate release of Mr Spezi is the only option in the current situation, unless the Italian police clarifies the charges they have against Mr Spezi.

For further information contact the IFJ at +32 2 235 22 00

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries