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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 May 2007, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Italy inmates seek death penalty
By Christian Fraser
BBC News, Rome

Jail in Terni, Italy (file photo)
Italian prisons hold hundreds of people serving life sentences
Hundreds of prisoners serving life sentences in Italy have called on President Giorgio Napolitano to bring back the death penalty.

Their request was published as a letter in the daily newspaper La Repubblica.

Italy has almost 1,300 prisoners serving life terms, of whom 200 have served more than 20 years.

Italy has been at the forefront of the fight against capital punishment and recently lobbied the UN Security Council to table a moratorium on it.

But at home some of the country's longest serving prisoners want the death penalty re-introduced.

'Light into shadows'

The letter they sent to President Napolitano came from a convicted mobster, Carmelo Musumeci, a 52-year-old who has been in prison for 17 years.

It was co-signed by 310 of his fellow lifers.

Musumeci said he was tired of dying a little bit every day.

We want to die just once, he said, and "we are asking for our life sentence to be changed to a death sentence".

It was a candid letter written by a man who, from within his cell, has tried hard to change his life.

He has passed his high school exams and now has a degree in law. But his sentence, he says, has transformed the light into shadows.

He told the president his future was the same as his past, killing the present and removing every hope.

'Need for change'

Italy abolished the death penalty after World War II.

Under current laws, prisoners serving life can obtain the right to brief periods of release after 10 years and conditional release after 26 years of good conduct.

The Communist Refoundation party's senator, Maria Luisa Boccia, has proposed draft legislation to abolish the life sentence and replace it with a maximum sentence of 30 years.

The president has spoken many times about the need to change the sentencing regime.

But in his response to the letter, he said it was now for parliament and the government to deal with the prisoners' request.


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