Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Monday, April 17, 2006
Activism for the Lazy
Because Free Speech is Important

Many of you in the literary blogosphere probably know all about this, but for those of you in the political blogosphere...

The Italian province of Perugia has arrested a journalist for muckraking.
From his co-writer Douglas Preston:

My dear colleagues,

Today, the police came and arrested Mario Spezi, my close friend and
writing partner. They lured him outside his apartment in Florence
with a false story and manhandled him into a car. I spoke to his
wife, Myriam, and she says the police refused to show an arrest
warrant and refused to let Spezi call his lawyer. It later turned out
the arrest had been ordered by "Gides," a special police unit led by
Michele Giuttari. Spezi was taken to Gides headquarters for
questioning and, as far as I know, was then taken to Perugia and

The accusations against Spezi, according to press accounts, are
slander and defamation, disturbing the public order, and obstructing
a criminal investigation. He was, essentially, arrested for doing his
job as a journalist. One news report says that he is also being
charged with an unsolved murder that occurred thirty-one years ago --
an utterly absurd charge.

Spezi's and my book, DOLCI COLLINE DI SANGUE, is slated to be
released in Italy by RCS Libri on April 19. The book criticizes
Michele Giuttari as well as the Pubblico Ministero of Perugia,
Giuliano Mignini, who is in charge of the investigation Spezi is now
accused of obstructing. As many of you know, I was taken into custody
last month in Italy by detectives from Giuttari’s unit, and
interrogated for hours by Mignini about our journalistic activities
related to the book. In the end I was slapped with an “avviso di
garanzia” for perjury and allowed to return home.

It is no coincidence that this arrest comes just twelve days before
the release of our book.

As of this writing, the U.S. State Department has asked Judge Mignini
to clarify my legal standing in Italy, and, as I understand it, to
explain on what grounds I was taken in for questioning and charged
with perjury. But what happened to me is nothing: Mario has taken the
full force of this astonishing abuse of power and his freedom as a
journalist and a human being hangs in the balance.

I ask all of you, please, for the love of truth and freedom of the
press, come to Spezi’s aid. This should not be happening in the
beautiful and civilized country that I love, the country that gave
the world Galileo and the Renaissance. Many of you belong to
organizations such as PEN or other writer’s organizations that could
bring pressure to bear. Others of you have blogs that could spread
the news.

Letters (always respectful in tone) should be addressed to:

Roberto Castelli
Il Ministro della Giustizia
Via Arenula, 70
00186 Roma

Giuseppe Pisanu
Il Ministro dell’Interno
Piazzale Viminale
00184 Roma

Italians care a great deal what Americans think. I have seen early
press reports in Italy and much of it is filled with dismay at this
treatment of one of Italy's most respected journalists. This is not
"business as usual" in Italy and it can be reversed, if we make a big
enough noise.

Thank you so much for your previous support, and I am deeply grateful
for anything you can do.


Go. Write. I'll even supply you a letter:

Your Excellency,

I was gravely disappointed when I learned journalist Mario Spezi had been arrested for slander, defamation, obstruction of investigation, and disturbing the public order by the “Gides” unit led by chief Perugian prosecutor Michele Guittari. I understand that the provincial government of Perugia has previously attacked Spezi on spurious charges; moreover, I understand that Spezi’s forthcoming book “Dolci Colline de Sangue” criticizes the role that Guittari played in the investigation of the Florentine serial killings of the 1970s and 1980s. To my eyes, at least, it appears that Guittari has arrested Spezi for the grand offense of critical journalism.

I have always admired the Italian people’s great contributions to the arts and sciences, from Fibonacci and Dante to da Vinci and Galileo to Fermi and Fellini. It would be a pity if this legacy were stained by overarching officials attempting to deny freedom of expression. I understand that Article 21 of the Italian Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, and I ask you to defend this freedom. Thus, I urge the (Ministry of Justice/Ministry of the Interior) to press for the removal of all charges against Mr. Spezi.

Respectfully yours,

Copy it into a word document, figure out which office you'll send it to first, print, address an envelope (put "Your Excellency" in front of the minister's name, they like that), add 84 cents of postage to the envelope, and repeat for the other office.

See, wasn't that easy?

(cross-posted in various forms to various message boards, etc.)

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