Statewatch News online: "Terrorism" extended to "anarchist groups"

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Anarchists to be targeted as "terrorists" alongside Al Qaeda (pdf file)

Europol has produced a Situation and Trends report on terrorist activity in the European Union. As might be expected the report covers ETA in Spain, the Real IRA in Northern Ireland, the National Front for the Liberation of Corsica and "Islamic extremist terrorism" (including Al Qaeda). The report stresses that although the number of incidents was "showing a small decrease" the "importance of the attacks increased dramatically" - this was because after 11 September the "European Union is not only a target for terrorist attacks but also an important area for preparatory and logistic purposes in the widest sense". It further notes that progress is taking place in Northern Ireland, and that ceasefires, both in Northern Ireland and Corsica have "been maintained by the main players".

One new category added in 2001 was "eco-terrorism" on which the report gives no examples. The report simply says in total that: "Radical environmentalists and animal rights movements have maintained a limited campaign. Nevertheless, the material damage they caused was extensive". No definition of "eco-terrorism" is given nor is one planned in the proposed extension of Europol's role (see Statewatch's The activities and development of Europol pamphlet). It is thus hard to see the distinction between activity which might be termed a criminal offence as distinct from a "terrorist" offence.

Another new category which is even more problematic is that of "anarchist terrorism". In February 2001 a Europol seminar on counter-terrorism held in Madrid agreed on a proposal by Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy to set up a joint investigation team on "anarchist terrorism". It appears that after Genoa in July 2001 Europol may have set up an "analysis file" on "anarchist terrorism" which in turn fed through into this Situation report. Interviewed by a German newspaper in August Jurgen Storbeck, Europol's Director, said the so-called "Black Block" of anarchists could be seen as "terrorist or pre-terrorist".

The following analysis looks at the many questions that arise from the inclusion of "anarchist terrorism" which relies almost totally on examples from Italy and at the attempt to extend terrorism in Spain to legitimate political groups.


The report says that "anarchist terrorism" could be a symptom of the possible "resurrection of left wing terrorism" and refers to a series of terrorist attacks "in the southern part of the Union". In fact all the incidents referred to are in Italy, and the report claims that these examples could spark the return of EU-wide "left wing and anarchist terrorism".

This is claimed, by some tortuous logic, to be an EU-wide problem as:

"left wing and anarchist websites in northern European countries cover this [Italian] situation in depth, the possibility of the resurrection of the left wing and anarchist terrorist groups is existent, in which the southern terrorist activity might function as an example"

The report is drawn up by Europol which appears to have rubber-stamped "intelligence" passed to it by member states seeking support for their internal agendas, on the basis of on-going judicial proceedings.

Italy has been investigating numerous anarchists accused of "subversive association" following the G8 summit in Genoa while Spain has been criminalising a number of Basque nationalist groups and left-wing activists by claiming that they are "part of ETA". This led to the inclusion of several Basque groups in the EU list of proscribed organisations and now this situation report.


Anarchists in Italy have been blamed for a spate of minor bomb attacks over the last few years, with links to groups in Spain, Portugal and Greece alleged by the Italian Interior Ministry. In particular, investigating magistrates have been linking investigations into actions attributed to anarchists to the struggle against the dispersal, isolation and hard prison regime for political prisoners (FIES) in Spain.

After the G8 summit in Genoa, anarchists were blamed by Italian authorities for violent clashes between police and protestors, and a backlash followed against the anarchist movement which led to nation-wide raids involving detentions, searches and a number of persons being placed under investigation.

The threat assessment report expresses concern over the "first signs of the possible resurrection of left wing terrorism", due to episodes of anarchist terrorism "in the second half of 2001". These are attributed to "International Solidarity" (Solidarieta Internazionale), an umbrella name for an organisation carrying out attacks in southern Europe, with examples listed from Italy. The examples provided are inaccurate in a number of respects and the problem has probably been highlighted beyond its actual significance.

Firstly, the document mistakenly states that the sixty alleged Solidarieta Internazionale members detained in September were "allegedly preparing terrorist attacks against Milan's cathedral and other objectives in the same city". The attacks referred to actually ocurred on 26 October 1999 (a carabinieri station), 28 June 2000 (Sant'Ambrogio church) and 18 December 2000 (the Duomo, Milan's cathedral), and were claimed by the group. Sixty people were detained on 18 September for allegedly being members of Solidarieta Internazionale, believed to be involved in attempted bombings in Milan (none of the bombs exploded) (see Statewatch vol 11 no 5). They have been released and are currently under investigation.

Secondly, investigations into another device that exploded in July 2001 outside the Palazzo di giustizia in Venice after the G8 summit, also included under the heading "anarchist terrorism", are still ongoing. Although anarchists or left-wingers were originally blamed, investigating magistrate Felice Casson ordered the arrest of a 26-year-old right-winger, Cristiano Rifani, in January 2001 and a second suspect is also a right- winger. A number of the cases included in the report are still unresolved, including an explosion in Rome on 11 May 2000 that targeted the Institute for International Affairs and the Council for US-Italian relations. It was claimed by the Nuclei di Iniziativa Proletaria in a 36-page e-mail document. Raul Terilli, Fabrizio Sante Antonini and Roberta Ripaldi, three activists, are under arrest in connection with this and other minor bombing incidents. In a letter from prison to anarchist magazine Croce Nera Anarchica, Fabrizio Sante Antonini claimed that " … on the night between July 15 and 16 2001" numerous searches were carried out in which "nothing was found". He adds that "after over two years of interceptions, surveillance … the normal personal relationships of a person written into police records adquire suspicious and perverse traits, the source for who knows what criminal conspiracy". He called on all activists and organisation to become active to "deconstruct this sandcastle based on falsehood and lies, with the aim of shutting up any voice expressing dissent or struggle".

A device that exploded outside the Northern League's headquarters in Vigonza (Padua) on 24 August 2001 is also included in the list of anarchist terrorist attacks although investigators said in August that it was just as likely that it was planted by ordinary organised crime.

There is an extensive history in Italy of anarchists or "left-wingers" appearing as suspects in the early stages of investigations, being arrested and later being shown to be innocent. In 2000 and 2001 two trials concerning explosions during the so-called "years of lead" originally blamed on anarchists resulted in convictions for right-wingers acting with state collusion (see Statewatch bulletin vol 10 no 2 & vol 11 no 3/4). Three members of Ordine Nuovo, a neo-fascist group with alleged links to Italian and US secret services, received life sentences on 30 June 2001 for planting a bomb in Milan's Banca dell'agricoltura in 1969, killing sixteen people. Two anarchists, Giuseppe Pinelli and Pietro Valpreda, were the original suspects. Pinelli died after falling out of a window when he was being questioned in custody, and Valpreda spent three years in prison. Gianfranco Bertoli was found guilty on 11 March 2000 for a 1973 bombing outside Milan's police station in which four people were killed - despite his claims that he was an anarchist, he was found to have been employed by the Italian secret service, SIFAR, and to have links with far-right groups, particularly Ordine Nuovo.

Massimo Cacciari, the former centre-left mayor of Venice, has criticised attempts by centre-right politicians to assume that bombings are left-wing before investigations are carried out. Alluding to the "years of lead", he claimed that "only in Italy, we pretend that the world hasn't changed", adding that "in the seventies, there was the actual threat of a civil war, there were coups d 'etat . .. there was a risk for democracy", which is no longer the case.

Luca Giannasi, an informer for the Italian military secret service (SISMI) received an eight-month prison sentence on 14 February 2001 for possession of explosives and was acquitted on the more serious charges of organising and carrying out two bombings in Milan. Based on a statement given to the police by Giuseppe Fregosi, an associate who was arrested for arms trafficking, Giannasi was arrested in connection with a bomb that exploded on 22 September 1998 in front of a Guardia di Finanza office and an unexploded device planted in the Bocconi University on 21 April 1999. Fregosi claimed that he provided Giannasi with explosive that the latter said would be used for making explosive devices. This evidence was not allowed in court because Fregosi refused to repeat his allegations in the trial. Giannasi allegedly told SISMI that attacks by anarchists were imminent between June and September 1998 and blamed the attack on the Guardia di Finanza office on Milan anarchists. A leaflet from a quite unknown group, the Nuclei di Guerriglia Antirazzista (Anti-Racist Guerrilla Units) was conveniently found with the device in a university classroom.

The inclusion of "anarchist terrorism", solely on the basis of evidence from Italy, begs the question about the proven role of right-wingers who have caused explosions in Italy. In one case a known right-winger was caught red-handed when he injured himself in an attempt to bomb the Rome headquarters of communist daily newspaper II manifesto on 22 December 2000. Andrea Insabato, a right-winger with links to Forza Nuova leader Roberto Fiore, was arrested after the attack against Il manifesto and received a 12-year prison sentence in February 2001. In recent years a museum on the Resistance movement (against nazism and fascism) and a cinema where a film on nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was being screened were also attacked with explosive devices.


The Spanish authorities have been conducting an ongoing campaign to criminalise Basque political organisations advocating autonomy, including youth organisations and prisoner support groups, by claiming that they are part of ETA. The inclusion of such groups - which were controversially outlawed in Spain in 2001 - listed in the document as "an ETA support organisation" (Ekin), organisations "closely affiliated with ETA" (Ekin, Haika and prison support group Gestoras pro-amnistia) and "bureau for international relations for ETA" (Xaki) supports this approach. These groups were also included in the EU list of terrorist organisations attached to the "Common position on the application of specific measures to combat terrorism" on the basis of information indicating that a decision by a competent authority regarding these groups in relation to terrorist offences has been taken "irrespective of whether it concerns the instigation of investigations or prosecution". Thus, the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" is dispensed with, and the fact that numerous arrests in connection with terrorist activities have been overturned on appeal is ignored. Catalan left wing groups have also alleged that arrests have taken place to link grassroots movements to ETA, including a raid in the Netherlands (see Statewatch news online, February) organised by European prosecutions unit pro-Eurojust to arrest Juan Ramirez Rodriguez, a singer in a Catalan political rock band.

In 2000 the Spanish government hardened its anti-terrorist legislation by extending the definition of apologia de terrorismo (defending terrorism) from incitement to commit offences to applauding a crime or praising its author. This was part of a raft of measures that also included treating minors as adults if they are involved in terrorist activity, and the conversion of kale borroka (street struggle/violence) into a terrorist offence. These measures were aimed at the wider Basque nationalist movement, at a time when any criticism of the government's anti-terrorist policy, or any claim for increased Basque sovereignty (even if it is conducted through the democratic system), is interpreted by the government as connivance with ETA - this happens regularly to the mainstream PNV (Basque Nationalist Party).

The Spanish government also wanted to have political party, Batasuna, listed as a terrorist organisation on the EU list - this failed when other EU member states pointed out that it would be a contradiction, as Batasuna is a political party with representatives in Spanish institutions. The ruling PP (Partido Popular) and opposition PSOE (Socialist Workers Party) are planning to resolve this issue, in the framework of an "Anti-terrorist pact" between the two parties, by making parties that "shelter or justify terrorism, xenophobia and racism" illegal, according to justice minister Angel Acebes. The criminalisation of Batasuna would make it difficult for a peace process such as those developing in Corsica and Northern Ireland, whose progress is welcomed in the document, to occur.

With the conversion of public order offences/violence into terrorist crimes if they have a political scope, any violent act motivated by claims for Basque independence may see its perpetrator linked to ETA, regardless of whether a link exists. The crucial issue is the support for a "terrorist goal". If a group opposes Spanish anti-terrorist policy (on human rights or other grounds), they be viewed as entities abusing their legal status to support "terrorists". If this criterion were adopted at a European level, the identification of a left-wing terrorist threat could lead to the description as "terrorist" (by association) of all activists in the EU.


As to the inclusion of "eco-terrorism", no incidents are mentioned other than a "limited campaign" which has caused "extensive" material damage. The case for placing "eco-terrorism" in a terrorist threat assessment document alongside Al Qaida appears highly questionable, and the absence of detail may be linked to possible support by EU citizens for actions carried out by some environmentalists which it would be convenient to construe as terrorism.

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, commented:

"The exclusion of right-wing bombing attacks in Italy - let alone violent and murderous attacks on migrants in several EU countries by racists - suggests that the inclusion of "anarchist terrorism" and "eco-terrorism" in this EU Situation report is aimed at criminalising the radical left and expanding the concept of terrorism"

Situation in the terrorist activity in the European Union: Situation report and trends - September 2000 to September 2001, full-text: 5759/02 (pdf) 5759/1/02 REV 1 (pdf)

Sources: Corriere della Sera 21-22.4.99, 26.4.00, 28.4.00, 18.6.00, 27.12.00, 1.8.01, 29.8.01, 20.9.01, 22.11.01, 15.2.02; Crocenera Anarchica no3, Dec.2001; El Mundo 16.1.02; El Pais 17.11.00, 19-20.2.01, 22.12.01, 27-28.12.01, 21.1.02; Euskalinfo 3.5.01, 15.6.01; Il Manifesto 28.8.01, 7-8.2.02; Il Messaggero 13.6.01; Indymedia 16.1.02; Repubblica 14.12.99, 16.11.00, 11.4.01, 17.7.01, 24.8.01, 26-28.8.01, 19.9.01; Repubblica online 28.8.01, 14.2.02; Spanish Interior Ministry press statements 5.4.01, 3.8.01, 14.9.01, 28.12.01, 4.2.02, 6.2.02; Stampa 26.8.01; Televideo 29.1.00.

amended: 25.2.02

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