Will Italy Try a U.S. Serviceman in Absentia?

In early 2005, Italian journalist Giuliana Segrena was taken hostage by Iraqi insurgents. Segrena, a reporter for the communist newspaper Il Manifesto, was released a month later to Italian security agent Nicola Calipari apparently after a ransom was paid. When the car they were riding in failed to stop at an American roadblock, Calipari was shot to death and Segrena wounded.

Since then, the case has been a source of growing friction between the American and Italian governments. An American investigation into the incident cleared the soldier who shot Calipari — Army Specialist Mario Lozano — of any wrongdoing but the Italians were not satisfied.

Now, after two years maneuvering, the Italian government is ready to try Lozano for murder in absentia. The trial may begin as early as April 17 according to one BBC report. If the Italians go through with the trial, they could damage enormously their already-strained relationship with the United States. One congressman, Vito Fossella (R-NY) is trying to stop the trial. Today, Fossella sent this letter to the Italian ambassador in Washington:

His Excellency Giovanni Castellaneta
Ambassador, The Italian Republic
3000 Whitehaven Street, N.W.
Washington, DC

Dear Ambassador Castellaneta:

I write to you today in regards to the case of Army Specialist Mario Lozano, who is currently set to go on trial in abstentia in Italian Courts next week. Spec. Lozano will be tried for the friendly fire incident involving two Italian citizens on March 4th, 2005 in Iraq. While the United States Army has cleared Spc. Lozano of any charges, I would like to take this opportunity, as former co-chair of the Italian-American Inter-Parliamentary Exchange, to discuss the position of the Italian government on the decision by the independent prosecutor to try him in such a manner.

Mr. Ambassador, I ask that you expedite my request to meet with my counterparts in the Italian Parliament and the appropriate Italian government officials as quickly as possible. Our two great countries have shared a long history of friendship, and I have worked hard in my capacity as co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Exchange, and as an active member of the Italian-American Congressional Delegation, to foster this friendship. Last year, I facilitated the address to Congress by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and I authored and helped pass legislation congratulating the Italian soccer team for winning the World Cup. I look forward to talking to my counterparts in greater detail about the in abstentia trial of Spc. Mario Lozano.

Once again, thank you for considering my request. If you have further concerns, please contact me directly, or have your staff contact C.W. Estoff at 202-225-3371. I look forward to your reply.

This case has significance far beyond the issue of Lozano and Calipari. If the show trial goes on, it may well be a breach of Italy’s obligations under the NATO Treaty and others. Has Bush Derangement Syndrome taken over the Italian government?

Stay tuned. Human Events will be following this case closely.