The Aldo Moro assassination, Reggio-Emilia, Italy, 1978

This headline comes from a large format book that is one of the most prized and unexpected things I have found on my travels: a bound collection of many of Italy’s newspapers from 10 May 1978 reporting the assassination of former prime minister Aldo Moro by Red Brigade terrorists after being held hostage for 55 days.  This was a major political event in Italy; still, I wondered, who would take the time to acquire newspapers from across the country on a single day and have them bound?

Well, a small news item this week has made the find even stranger.  But first, the context: in 2010, I found this book (along with another, less notable bound collection of newspapers that I did not buy) hidden away on the proverbial top shelf at a dusty used bookstore in Reggio-Emilia, a small town of 150,000 or so in northern Italy between Parma and Bologna.  Incidentally, that was the same visit to Reggio in which the Google Maps car caught me sitting on a bench eating gelato, which I wrote about here.  The book is heavy and so large as to be cumbersome to carry home — I had to buy a new suitcase just to fit it — but I have been fascinated by the assassination ever since reading Leonardo Sciascia’s small pamphlet The Moro Affair, which is highly speculative, quite controversial within Italy, and one of those texts that serves as a head-spinning revelation whether what Sciascia has written is historically accurate or not.  But I’d read The Moro Affair quite a while ago and some of the crucial details had been lost; what I remembered most clearly was the way in which one of Italy’s most powerful men, once kidnapped, was largely abandoned by the political elite of which he had so recently been an important member.  To have found the original front sections from so many Italian newspapers covering the event seemed a miracle.

The news this week that makes all this even more improbable is that Prospero Gallinari died, at age 62.  Gallinari is the Red Brigade terrorist who was convicted of personally shooting Aldo Moro — though another member, Mario Moretti, later contended he had done it — but he was released from prison in 1996 and died a free man (see update, below) at his home, which it turns out is in none other than Reggio-Emilia.  So now I must wonder whether the person who took the trouble to gather all the newspapers for that day was Gallinari himself, or someone close to him, as a record of the deed for which he was famous.


Update: Responding to this post on Twitter, Antonella Becaria (@abeccaria) in Bologna questions whether it can be said that Gallinari died a ‘free’ man:



She directs me to this blog post (in Italian) that makes the case that though Gallinari was released from prison (on grounds of ill health) nearly 17 years before he died the courts, in effect, left him in legal limbo. This is a worthy clarification, though I would contend that an acknowledged terrorist and convicted (perhaps wrongly) assassin who lives out his last two decades in his own home has known a degree of liberty like few others.  What is also true is that the moral and political status of the Red Brigades — indeed, the whole era of radical left-wing political action in the 1970s so aptly captured in the film The Baader-Meinhof Complex — remains extremely controversial to this day and the group is not without its sympathizers in Italy, which clouds the question of Gallinari’s fundamental innocence or guilt and thus whether in the end he was remarkably free or unreasonably detained.





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