Hutnyk on Tue, 23 Sep 1997 15:20:49 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> ! Freedom for Toni Negri


     Toni Negri has been in prison in Rome since July 1, 1997.  He has 
been sentenced to more than 13 years in prison, not counting another 
conviction that is now in the appeal process.  After residing in 
France in exile since 1983, he returned to Italy voluntarily in the 
hope that his action would contribute to the resolution of the problem 
of the exiles and prisoners who are wanted or convicted for the 
political activities of the 1970s in Italy, the so-called "years of 
lead."  About 180 people are still in Italian prison under these 
charges and about 150 are in exile, the majority of them in France. 
     Toni Negri was a professor at the University of Padua and his 
writings are well-known throughout the world.  He was arrested on 
April 7, 1979 and accused of "armed insurrection against the powers of 
the State."  To support this accusation, his accusers presented him as 
the secret leader of the Red Brigades, the terrorist group that had 
kidnapped and assassinated Aldo Moro, President of the Christian 
Democratic Party.  Negri has always denied this absurd accusation and 
he was later formally acquitted of this charge.  Charges against him 
were modified numerous times.  After four and a half years of 
preventive detention, he was elected to parliament as a representative 
of the Radical Party and was consequently released from prison.  When 
the Chamber of Deputies subsequently voted by a narrow margin to strip 
him of his parliamentary immunity and send him back to prison, he fled 
to France.  The court procedures against him continued in his absence 
and led to convictions under several charges and in several different 
trials.  At the time, Amnesty International denounced the serious legal 
irregularities of Negri's trial and those of his colleagues at the 
University of Padua.  During his exile, Toni Negri worked in France as 
a teacher at the University of Paris VIII, at the College 
International de Philosophie, and as a social science researcher.  He 
published numerous books during this period.
     Due to his notoriety Negri has become the emblematic figure of 
the Italian radical Left of the 1970s.  Beginning in the Autumn of 
1969 there began in Italy a period of intense social conflicts that 
were exacerbated by the very ambiguous role of certain State agencies 
in what was called a "strategy of tension," in other words, the 
manipulation of the neo-fascist groups responsible for a deadly 
bombing campaign at such sites as Piazza Fontana and the Bologna train 
station.  The radicalization of the Italian extra-parliamentary Left 
and the social movements led a large number of activists toward the 
path of wide-spread political violence and a few of them toward armed 
struggle.  Between 1976 and 1980, tens of thousands of activists were 
pursued by the police and more than five thousand arrested.  Hundreds 
of long-term sentences were handed out on the basis of emergency laws 
that are still in effect, including principally the so-called law of 
the "repentants."  This law makes the testimony of accused persons who 
have "repented" the sufficient basis for the conviction of others, and 
allows for them to be set free in return for having turned State's 
evidence.  Another emergency measure allows for preventive detention 
to extend retroactively up to twelve years.  This measure is radically 
incompatible with the principles of the rule of law and the basic 
rules of penal procedure, as they are defined by articles 5 and 6 of 
the European Convention of Human Rights and protected by the European 
Court of Human Rights.  One can assume that the highly contestable 
nature of such legislation is what has led Italy's democratic 
neighbors such as France and Great Britain to have serious doubts 
about these cases and not to act on the majority of the more than 
seventy requests for extradition presented by Italian authorities, 
regardless of the political party in power.  For the same reason, 
undoubtedly, the over five hundred refugees who have been accepted in 
France over these years have never been disturbed or harassed.  These 
refugees have integrated into French society, finding work and 
building families.  Now they do not want to risk their futures and the 
lives they have constructed in order to resolve twenty-five-year old 
sentences that were handed down in such dubious emergency conditions. 
     The object of this appeal should not be interpreted in any way to 
condone the real or supposed activities of those pursued and convicted 
for their activities during the "years of lead."  The refugees have 
declared unambiguously that the "war" is over.  "That period has 
ended."  A democracy worthy of that name must be able to turn the 
page.  Today these nearly four hundred exiles and prisoners are 
excluded from Italian society.  A problem of this order cannot be 
resolved on a case by case basis, but must be addressed with a general 
     A bill for an "indulto" (a reduction of sentences by a vote of 
parliament) was introduced nine years ago but has not yet come up for 
a vote.  Such a bill would have positive effects, but it would not 
resolve the refugees' problems.  The only solution for Toni Negri and 
his unfortunate companions would be an amnesty.  The only amnesty that 
has been passed in Italy was in 1946, which Togliatti supported with 
regard to the fascists.  On the other hand, for the activities linked 
to France's war in Algeria and concerning actions of a gravity more or 
less equivalent to those committed in the 1970s in Italy, France 
granted an amnesty to both the deserting soldiers and the members of 
the OAS. 
     Since we support the principles of the rule of law and the re-
establishment of human rights everywhere for everyone, as Italy 
prepares for integration into the new Europe, we ask urgently that the 
Italian members of parliament respond favorably to this appeal for 
clemency by passing an amnesty law as soon as possible.  We also ask 
the representatives of the European Union to take appropriate measures 
to insure the swift release of Toni Negri.  If he symbolized one era, 
then his release will symbolize another, calmer one.  Finally, by 
repealing the series of exceptional measures that are incompatible 
with the European Convention of Human Rights, Italy would live up to 
its central role in the new Europe. 


     Having understood the circumstances, we support the appeal in 
favor of the release of Toni Negri in order to put an end to the 
"years of lead" in Italy.
     Toni Negri was in France for fourteen years.  He sought refuge 
there in 1983 after serving four and a half years of preventive 
detention in Italy.  He has now returned voluntarily to Italy where he 
has been sentenced to prison for eminently political reasons on the 
basis of an arsenal of emergency measures (such as convictions based 
solely on the testimony of "repentants" and extended preventive 
detention) that are incompatible with the European Convention of Human 
     He has been in prison since July 1, 1997 and his release (which 
will likely be only a work release) has still not come about.
     Four hundred people are excluded from Italian society on the 
basis of political activity conducted twenty years ago.  The more than 
150 refugees in France do not want to destroy the lives they have 
constructed in order to address these sentences based on emergency 
measures.  European authorities on the Right and the Left have not 
extradited the refugees back to Italy, and they have thus expressed 
sotto voce their disdain for the Italian procedures.
     The wide-spread political violence of the Italian social 
struggles, which has been conflated under the label of Italian 
"terrorism," is something that ended long ago.  Can a democracy apply 
to those accused of political crimes (twenty years after the fact) 
measures more severe than those used in common criminal cases? 
     The release of Toni Negri must finally lead toward an amnesty 
that has been too long in coming.  Only the abrogation of the 
emergency measures and the parliamentary passage of an amnesty bill 
can finally put an end to the "years of lead."  As long as these 
conditions are not met, we urge the countries of the European Union to 
guarantee the residency of the Italian exiles.  We ask finally that 
the members of parliament of the other countries of the Union and 
those of the Strasbourg Assembly do all they can to resolve these 

Please send signatures to Yann Moulier Boutang by fax or e-mail.
fax: (011.331)

Name       Function or Title     Address and telephone, fax, or email 

Among those who have already signed this petition:
E. Balibar (philosopher), J.L. Benhamias (General Secretary of the 
Green Party in France), O. Betourne (editor at Editions Fayard), P. 
Boulez (musician), Ch. Bourgois (editor), P.A. Boutang (film producer), 
R. de Ceccatty (writer), G. Chatelet (mathematician), M. Chemillier-
Gendreau (jurist), D. Cohn-Bendit (writer), R. Debray (writer), J. 
Derrida (philosopher), C. Dolto-Toltitch (doctor), V. Forrester 
(writer), S. Gisselbrecht (Inserm), G. Kejman (lawyer), A. Lipietz 
(economist), B. Marger (Cite de la Musique), J.F. Masson (doctor), F. 
Matta (artist), G. Perault (philosopher), M. Plon (psychoanalyst), A. 
Querrien (urbanist), J. Ranciere (philosopher), E. Roudinesco (writer), 
S. Silberman (film producer), Ph. Sollers (writer), G. Soulier 
(jurist), and I. Stengers (philosopher). 

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