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Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia

Italian climate activists face trial for painting Senate

An Italian judge ruled Tuesday that three environmental activists who sprayed the Senate with washable paint, sparking anger from Italy's far-right government, must stand trial.

Laura, 26, Davide, 23, and Alessandro, 21, who belong to the Last Generation group and go by their first names, are accused of criminal damage and risk up to three years behind bars.

They were among five climate activists who on Monday used fire extinguishers to spray the front of the upper house of the Italian parliament in Rome with washable orange paint.

They claimed to be responding to the "willingness of political and economic elites to deliberately choose to condemn much of the global population to drought, famine, war and death," Laura said in a statement.

The group wants Italy to invest more in renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions.

Police quickly arrived on the scene as the activists were spurting orange paint across the windows, walls and vast wooden door of the Senate.

They seized the fire extinguishers and detained all five activists, before releasing two.

- 'Bring attention' -

Last Generation said the arrests were "aimed at intimidating and criminalising those who are trying to bring attention to the real crime that this government is perpetrating".

The trial for the three arrested will begin on May 12, their lawyer Ilaria Salamandra told AFP.

"The defence hopes the court will change the offence," reducing it to soiling rather than damage, a lesser charge that carries a punishment of between six months to one year, she said.

Italy's far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni slammed the spraying as an "outrageous gesture", while the Senate speaker Ignazio La Russa, from Meloni's Brothers of Italy party, said it was "cowardly".

Stefano Feltri, editor of the left-wing Domani daily, wrote Monday that climate activists in Italy were "treated more harshly than hooligan leaders who collude with organised crime".

Last Generation began carrying out peaceful but disruptive protests in Italy last year ahead of the general election, urging politicians from all parties to make climate change their priority.

Activists threw paint at Milan's famed La Scala opera house last month and have targeted artworks in museums in protests designed not to damage the works, but rather to highlight the risk of environmental disaster.

The protests in Italy are part of a series of actions across Europe to focus attention on climate change.

Activists have targeted masterpieces such as the "Girl with a Pearl Earring" by Johannes Vermeer at The Hague's Mauritshuis museum, Klimt's "Death and Life" in Vienna's Leopold Museum or Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" at London's National Gallery, hurling soup or other food at the paintings behind glass.


© AFP/Wanted in Rome

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Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
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