Convicts on roof, fatalities as Italy jails protest virus

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Relatives of Rebibbia prison's inmates face police after inmates staged a protest against new coronavirus containment measures, in Rome, Monday, March 9, 2020. (AP)
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Inmates' relatives gather to protest measures including a ban on family visits, as part of new rules introduced to contain the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, outside the Secondigliano prison in Naples on March 9, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 09 March 2020

Convicts on roof, fatalities as Italy jails protest virus

  • Some prisoners have been asking to be granted amnesty over the health crisis
  • Rights campaigners warned of mass revolts over the new measures, and families gathered outside prisons to protest at the restrictions

MILAN: Prisoners took to the roof of a Milan jail Monday as part of a string of violent country-wide protests against coronavirus measures, in which six convicts have died.
In another incident, around 50 inmates broke out of jail in the southern city of Foggia, and about 20 were still on the run after their fellow convicts were caught, Italian media reported.
Jails have been ordered to stop all visits and limit day releases.
Some prisoners have been asking to be granted amnesty over the health crisis.
Rights campaigners warned of mass revolts over the new measures, and families gathered outside prisons to protest at the restrictions — and to get news of their loved ones.

Around a dozen prisoners at the San Vittore prison in Milan managed to climb onto the roof of one of the wings and shouted slogans as police and prison guards below looked on.
It was the second day of unrest, with at least 23 jails — from Venice and Milan in the north, to Rome, Naples and Bari in the south — protesting over measures aimed at preventing the virus entering the prison system.
Six inmates died during or following clashes at Sant’Anna jail in the city of Modena in northern Italy, according to prisoner rights group Antigone.
Three died in Modena, while the other three died after being transferred from there to jails in Parma, Alessandria and Verona, Italian news agency ANSA said.
It said there were reports that the prisoners had broken into a medical center in the Modena jail and had overdosed.
Authorities in Modena would not immediately confirm the reports.
Domenico Pianese, head of the police union Coisp, said the mass revolts looked planned and warned that the mafia could be behind such “an evident strategy to try to take advantage of the difficulties caused by the coronavirus.”
At San Vittore, prisoners covering their faces with scarves or bandanas perched precariously on the slanted roof tiles. Fellow inmates could be seen massed around the barred windows at the jail in the Italian capital.
Relatives rallied outside many of the concerned jails in protest over the measures, including a ban on family visits.
“We’re urging inmates and relatives to stop violent protests, as they could spark others,” Antigone’s Andrea Oleandri said.
“The situation could rapidly deteriorate.”
Prisoners, who get most of their information from televisions, tended to protest in solidarity if they saw convicts in other jails rioting, Oleandri said.
Family members desperate for news of their loved ones had to be held off by prison guards at the entrance to the Modena jail, as ambulances and prison vans came and went, an AFP photographer said.
“This rumpus, this ‘war’ happened because the inmates hadn’t been given any information about what was going on outside, and visits had been suspended,” said Gilberto, the father of one prisoner who did not want to give his last name.
“No-one’s telling us who’s died, who is injured, or why they died and why they were injured,” the 59-year-old told AFP.
Italy’s prisons are suffering from overcrowding, with over 61,000 inmates locked up in spaces designed to hold just 51,000.
The country has been hard hit by the virus — with 366 fatalities so far — and the government has imposed draconian measures to stop it spreading further, including placing large swathes of the north under lockdown.
As well as halting visits and limiting day releases, all prison staff are supposed to have their temperatures checked on arrival each day. Medical checks for incoming inmates have also been ramped up, Antigone said.
“The prisoners are worried the virus will get into jail and spread,” Oleandri said.
“They are in confined spaces. There are usually two or three people in a 12-meter square cell. And while visits have been suspended, there are still lots of people coming and going,” he said.
Antigone has called for more inmates with only a short time left to serve to be allowed to do so at home, reducing the numbers behind bars.
Amnesty International Italy said it was “deeply concerned” by the violence and stressed that the “critical hygienic-sanitary conditions” in jails demanded the utmost precautions be taken to limit the risk of contagion.


At least two killed as car ploughs into pedestrian zone in German town

Updated 52 min 26 sec ago

At least two killed as car ploughs into pedestrian zone in German town

  • The driver was arrested and the vehicle was impounded, Trier police tweeted
  • Two people have died, and 15 others had suffered serious injuries

BERLIN: At least two people including a child were killed and up to 15 injured on Tuesday when a speeding car ploughed into a pedestrian area in the western German city of Trier, authorities said.
Witnesses said people screamed in panic and some were thrown into the air by the car as it crashed through the shopping zone.
Police said several people had been killed, having earlier put the death toll at two, with more than 10 injured. The local newspaper, the Trierischer Volksfreund, put the death toll at four, including a child, but police did not confirm that figure.
"We have arrested one person, one vehicle has been secured," police said, adding that a 51-year-old German suspect from the Trier area was being questioned, police said.
Mayor Wolfram Leibe had rushed to the scene.
"We have a driver who ran amok in the city. We have two dead that we are certain of and up to 15 injured, some of them with the most severe injuries," he told public broadcaster SWR.
"I just walked through the city centre and it was just horrible. There is a trainer lying on the ground, and the girl it belongs to is dead," he told a news conference, with tears stopping him from speaking further.
He told broadcaster N-TV that people who saw the incident were "totally traumatised" and the street "looks a bit like after a war".
Leibe said he did not know the motive for the incident, which shocked residents of Germany's oldest town, founded by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago.
The Trierischer Volksfreund quoted an eyewitness as saying a Range Rover was driving at high speed and people had been thrown through the air. It said the car had Trier plates.
It reported that people screamed in panic when the car drove through the street.
Officers were scouring the area in search of evidence, backed by police dressed in flak jackets and carrying rifles. On the streets, Christmas lights twinkled incongruously.
Germany has tightened security on pedestrian zones across the country since a truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market in 2016 that killed 12 people and injured dozens.
In October 2019, a man opened fire on a synagogue in the city of Halle. After failing to get into the building he went on a rampage outside, killing two people.
In February this year a racist gunman killed nine migrants in Hanau near Frankfurt before killing his mother and himself. Only about a week later, a local man ploughed his car into a carnival parade in the town of Volkmarsen, injuring 61.
Germany has tightened measures to fight the coronavirus, with bars and restaurants closed, but shops and schools are still open.
"What happened in Trier is shocking. Our thoughts are with the relatives of the victims, with the numerous injured and with everyone who is currently on duty to care for the victims," Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, said on Twitter.