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Turin protest in support of jailed anarchist Cospito turns violent

Turin protest began peacefully but turned violent.

A demonstration in Turin in support of jailed anarchist leader Alfredo Cospito descended into violence and vandalism on Saturday evening, with police using tear gas and water cannon to break up the riots.

The protest began without incident in Piazza Solferino, in the historic centre of the north Italian city, but turned violent when several hundred protesters began to march through the streets.

Protesters chanted slogans in support of Cospito, who has been on hunger strike for more than four months in protest against his harsh 41-bis prison regime, which is normally reserved for mafia bosses.

"If Alfredo dies, these cowards and murderers must repent for their actions" - veteran anarchist Pasquale Valitutti told the crowd - "We must make them pay."

Demonstrators set up barricades using bins as they pelted police with bottles and smoke bombs, smashing car windscreens and setting fire to rubbish dumpsters along the way.

Two police officers were injured while 34 protesters were detained and more than 150 identified, according to state broadcaster RAI. Alongside Italians, there were reportedly demonstrators from France, Germany, Greece and Spain.

Graffiti messages were written on walls against Italian justice minister Carlo Nordio who last month rejected Cospito's appeal to end his 41-bis regime, a decision subsequently backed by the supreme court.

In recent weeks there have been several violent protests in Rome in support of the campaign by Cospito who is the leader of the Informal Anarchists Federation (FAI) and is serving 30 years for terror attacks.

The health of Cospito, 55, is "deteriorating rapidly, although the fact that he has resumed taking at least a little sugar makes it a little less dramatic", according to his doctor, reports news agency ANSA.

"I express my firmest condemnation for the acts of violence that took place in Turin" - stated the speaker of Italy's lower house Lorenzo Fontana on Saturday night - "To the police officers who were injured, to the citizens and to those who have been affected by the vandalism of the demonstrators, I express my deepest solidarity and closeness".

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