Rome – House Speaker Laura Boldrini on Wednesday announced she has moved to have the government release secret case files into the 1994 slaying in Somalia of Italian TV journalist Ilaria Alpi and her Slovenian cameraman Miran Hrovatin. Boldrini said she had asked the government “if the case continues to meet requirements” for the country’s secret service.
Investigators have long suspected the pair was deliberately killed to prevent them revealing a high-level conspiracy to divert Italian aid to an organisation trafficking in weapons and toxic waste.
Alpi, 32, and Hrovatin, 45, were ambushed and shot in their jeep in Mogadishu by a seven-man commando unit on March 20, 1994. A Somali citizen, Hashi Omar Hassan was sentenced to 26 years in prison for the double murder.
A parliamentary committee, working from July 2003 to February 2006, concluded that Alpi and Hrovatin died in a kidnapping attempt that went wrong.
However, the panel stated that there were many attempts by military and diplomatic authorities to minimise or suppress certain aspects of the case. The centre-left opposition called the committee’s findings “unacceptable”, saying there was not enough evidence to suggest the two were the victims of a kidnapping. No autopsies were performed in the immediate aftermath of the two murders. Instead, photos were taken of the dead body of Alpi, who worked for state broadcaster RAI’s third channel.
Those photos and the medical report, along with other key evidence including Alpi’s notes, camera and video cassettes, mysteriously went missing on the journey back from Africa to Italy, fuelling suspicions of a cover-up.
Initially, it was thought that the journalist’s murder was simply revenge for clashes which had broken out between the militias of Somalia’s warlords and Italian peacekeepers. But a 1999 book by Alpi’s parents called The Execution speculates that Alpi and Hrovatin were killed to stop them revealing what they knew about an international arms and toxic-waste traffic ring implicating high-level political, military and economic spheres in both countries.
The book, which was later turned into a film, accuses the Italian secret service SISMI, later renamed as AISE, of playing a major part in this ring. Hashi Omar Hassan, who came to Italy in 1998 to give evidence into a probe into brutality by Italian soldiers, was acquitted of involvement in the two murders at the end of a first trial in July 1999. But he was found guilty by an appeals court in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison.
Italy’s Supreme Court upheld the guilty verdict in October 2001 but reduced the sentence from life to 26 years because it said the crimes were not premeditated. Hassan’s lawyers say he was not even in Mogadishu at the time of the killing, and say he was tricked into coming to Italy. Hassan was sentenced on testimony given by two witnesses, Alpi’s Somali driver Abdi Ali, who died in Somalia several years ago, and a local policeman who never testified in court.
A former member of the ‘Ndrangheta mafia claimed in 2009 that the pair were assassinated because they had seen toxic waste shipped by the ‘Ndrangheta arrive in Somalia.