Italian police reportedly call for death of US suspects

ROME (AP) — Several members of Italy’s Carabinieri paramilitary police have called for the death or beating of two American teenagers who were arrested hours after an officer was killed, media reported Wednesday Italians.

A Carabinieri officer has been accused of using unwarranted measures to deal with a suspect who allegedly unlawfully blindfolded one of the teenagers as he waited for questioning at a police station. Phone-mail conversations involving several riflemen hours after the arrests of young tourists in July 2019 were presented as evidence during the officer’s trial on Wednesday.

Gabriel Natale-Hjorth and Finnegan Lee Elder, aged 18 and 19 respectively at the time of the murders in Rome, were convicted last year of murder and sentenced to Italy’s toughest sentence: life imprisonment. An appeal trial for the two is expected to open Thursday in Rome.

Vice Brigadier Carabinieri Mario Cerciello Rega, 35, was stabbed 11 times by Elder, and his police partner was lightly injured during a scuffle with the two defendants on a street near their hotel where the Americans were staying during the summer holidays.

At their trial, the Americans testified that they were acting in self-defense against two men they believed to be thugs. Cerciello Rega’s partner testified that the two officers clearly identified themselves as carabinieri but were immediately attacked without cause.

The officers were on a mission in plain clothes to investigate an alleged extortion attempt by the Americans following a failed attempt to purchase cocaine.

Shortly after the suspects were arrested at their hotel, Natale-Hjorth was blindfolded with a headscarf as he sat in a chair for questioning at a police station. A photo of the eye bandage, which is illegal and a violation of police procedure in Italy, has been circulating in Italian media.

On Wednesday, Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera cited transcripts presented during the officer’s trial of voicemail conversations involving several carabinieri after the arrests.

Some messages called for Americans to be given the death penalty – which Italy does not have – or to be put in a locked room and killed. Another message suggested that the two are “dissolved in acid”.

Yet another message wanted the young men to meet the same fate as an Italian who was badly beaten in 2009 while in carabinieri custody and later died. Two Carabinieri officers were eventually convicted of manslaughter in the case and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

On Wednesday, Carabinieri officials called the chat messages “offensive and abominable” and pledged to immediately discipline the officers involved, Italian news agency Lapresse said.

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