On June 5th, after four years, sentencing in the Cucchi case has finally taken place. The court gave one doctor a two-year prison sentence and the five others 16 months. The guilty will be on parole, though, rather than going to prison as Italian law avoids detention if the penalty is less than three years. Nurses and police officers were found not guilty because the court found that Stefano Cucchi died from malnutrition and dehydration.
Stefano Cucchi, a 31 year-old surveyor from Rome, was arrested on October 15th 2009 and charged with drug possession as he was apparently carrying 29 grams of hashish, some cocaine and anti-epilepsy drugs. In prison he was beaten and severely injured by three police officers. His body was covered in bruises, several of his internal organs were ruptured, and his jaw, abdomen and two vertebrae were fractured. Although he was taken to hospital, doctors did not treat him and allowed him to die of starvation. Stefano’s family tried several times to see him but were prevented from doing so. They were contacted only when a police officer requested their permission for the autopsy. In an attempt to prevent a cover-up and to protect their son’s memory – Giovanardi, a Government undersecretary, for example, declared that Cucchi was killed by his own drug abuse – Stefano’s parents published several photos of his body.
A total of 12 people were accused of homicide: six doctors, three nurses and three police officers. Although the charges were many – neglect of someone incompetent, abuse of authority, aiding and abetting (favoreggiamento), ideological forgery (falsità ideologica), injury and abuse of power – the court’s expert witnesses recognized only the “inaction” of the doctors.
Many bands dedicated songs to Stefano, Amnesty International and Articolo21 produced a documentary on his case, and his friend and well-known boxer, Emanuele Della Rosa, dedicated a boxing tournament to him. Italian left activists helped the Cucchi family to connect with the families of other victims of police violence, thus opening a broader discussion on the state of Italian prisons and the behaviour of Italian police officers.
Photos of Stefano Cucchi’s body, spread by the family.