Letter from Alessandria prison, dated 28 July 2001
We have now been detained for a week in Alessandria prison. For days
we didnít know on what grounds. On Thursday we were then told by a woman
magistrate that we had committed certain offences during the protests in
Genoa. There is no evidence for this - nor can there be any, as we are
innocent. So far I have had no opportunity either to make a telephone call
or to speak to a lawyer - only during the interview with the magistrate was
a lawyer present, but this was of no use to me as I was unable to
communicate with him. I have not even met D.R., counsel assigned to me.
According to Austrian consular staff - they visited us and gave us some
money - there are four lawyers working on our behalf. One of them, Embacher
from Austria, is claimed to have been engaged for this purpose by the Green
Party. Again according to the consulate, the lawyers have applied for us to
be released. A decision on this application must be reached by 11 or 12
August. Should the ruling that we must remain here be confirmed, we might
have to wait for up to six months before our trial. I for one simply cannot
understand why we are locked up here. Life here is very monotonous. During
our arrest and the next few hours afterwards we were treated very badly.
Incidentally, I was never told that I was under arrest. Here in prison itís
a bit better, but cerainly not exactly brilliant. Locked up and under guard
the whole time, nothing to read, nothing to do. Yesterday, Saturday, having
insisted for a long time, we were at last given a pen and paper. Even so,
just one pen for two persons. At any rate, for the last few days Iíve been
sharing a cell with ---. Three times a day we get something to eat - in the
morning, rolls without butter and usually a bit of fruit, for lunch then
something hot, and in the evening pasta. Often thereís nothing much for
vegetarians, but weíve heard that tomorrow weíll be able to see a doctor
and have vegetarian food "prescribed". I do wonder what will come of that.
The cells themselves are very small, thereís a bunk bed, but neither a
table nor a chair. In addition, each cell is furnished with a small
lavatory and washbasin. The only time we are allowed to leave the cell is
for a shower, exercise time and to see visitors - once so far, from the
consulate. Oh, and for the remand hearing last Thursday.
The worst thing, in my view at any rate, is that as yet I have not been
seen by any lawyer. That really has been everbody elseís experience too.
Some of them were able to meet their lawyers for one or two minutes, but
that surely doesnít allow for any detailed discussion. The consular staff
certainly thought that not all of us might be able to see their lawyers, or
indeed any lawyer, in the near future. I wonder. At any rate, according to
the consulate the lawyers have applied for our transfer to Genoa. This
would make it easier for them to visit us. In addition, the women arrested
with us are likewise to be transferred to Genoa, the lawyers proposed. I
have no idea how things are with them. Apparently we are all being charged
with the same offences - 15 men here in Alessandria, and 10 women somewhere
else in some other jail. Being informed that we were to remain in detention
was a harsh blow for all of us, as far as I know. And somehow even
A further application allegedly filed by the lawyers was for us to be
permitted to contact our relatives. As far as I know youíll have to contact
the Austrian consulate or the Austrian embassy in Rome before you can visit
me here. The telephone numbers of the consulate in Milano are 02 48 12 066
or 02 48 12 937. At any rate, a woman from the consulate promised that she
would ring you. For my part, Iíve at last been able to apply for permission
to phone you - allegedly we are able/allowed to ring our relatives only
(mother, father, siblings ...).
Unfortunately, I donít know whether and
when Iíll be able to see a lawyer. Icidentally, here inside we have little
or no information of what is going on outside. So it would be nice if you
could send me something to read. Allegedly there is no problem with
newspapers and periodicals, though books are first checked, or so we hear.
But I donít really know for sure. Weíre also permitted clothing. It would
be great if you could send me shorts or cut-off trousers, some underpants,
T-shirts and a thin jumper. Any excess clothing I can pass on to others,
though I do hope that this wonít go on for much longer. If it does, an
Italian dictionary wouldnít come amiss, as the warders mostly speak Italian
Also give everybody my regards. And please take care of my room - so the
others can pay the rent for me. I hope that Iíll soon be able again to take
care of that myself. Iíll write more letters in the next few days - after
all, thereís not much else for me to do - but please do show this one to
others. Of course it is addressed to you, but Iím sure somebody else will
read it here in the prison before itís dispatched. So it isnít an entirely
personal communication any more - rather public, in fact. Incidentally, you
can write back to me, although I canít tell you the address, unfortunately.
Perhaps itíll be shown somewhere on the letter or envelope. Everybody here
is glad to receive mail.
But the best thing is to hear about solidarity outside. Weíre told there
have already been a number of demonstrations, and the Italian authoritiesí
decision simply to lock up a few people has come under intense scrutiny by
many. By the way, another two people are being detained here with us
because of Genoa - supposedly for 30 days each. And then there are some
more detained here for other reasons. But most of the prison, so weíve
heard, was temporarily cleared of prisoners in preparation for Genoa. So we
have a huge prison almost entirely to ourselves. Somehow I get the
impression that there are more warders here than inmates. Perhaps that is
also the reason why they havenít let us go yet?
Just now itís been almost exactly a week since the police surrounded us.
And soon weíll have supper. Just a moment ago weíve been discussing the
issue of vegetarian food - whether a doctor would actually be obliged to
prescribe a special diet. But weíll see tomorrow. Our fellow inmates, who
bring us our food, are almost getting concerned at any rate. Not just
because of the food, but also about whether the smokers among us have
enough cigarettes - though that is never the case - at least not so far.
It is certainly funny that, on the one hand, we are locked up without
knowing why, are being detained here and are nevertheless treated
relatively kindly. But then, none of us have staged any rebellion or caused
any problems. Somehow weíre all looking forward to our release from here.
One week, at any rate, is at least one week too long. How must it feel to
people who are jailed for much longer terms even though theyíre innocent.
But I notice that Iím repeating myself. So Iíll conclude my letter, sending
my best wishes to all of you. I hope weíll meet soon - at liberty.
P.S. As it turned out, we donít get dinner on Sunday. Fortunately, we still
had something and exchanged some between us. The first week here has
passed, at any rate, the mosquitoes have gradually all been driven away,
and some of us have already gone to bed. Iíll follow suit. Letís hope I can
post this letter tomorrow.