31 May 2012

Still on high alert: english version of Tomaso's mother's interview

Attenzione: Questa è la versione in inglese dell'intervista a Marina Maurizio, la mamma di Tomaso. Chiunque abbia la possibilità di divulgare questo testo anche all'estero (giornali, siti, blog, social network)può tranquillamente utilizzarlo.
Aiutateci ad aiutare questi ragazzi.

This is an incredible and real story of injustice.
I came to know it about two years ago, not thanks to newspapers or TV, but only thanks to a friend Elisabetta, Tomaso and I have in common.
In February 2012 three Italians named Elisabetta, Francesco and Tomaso are on a 1-month tour in India.
At the beginning the touring group includes some 15 people. As some of them go back home or change their travel itinerary, the three friends – the couple Elisabetta and Francesco, and Tomaso – decide to continue their journey. Their friendship has started in London where the three have lived and worked for a few years.
In the last days of their tour, they decide to visit one more city, Varanasi, India’s holiest city situated on the banks of the river Ganges.
Little money being left, they decide to share a room altogether to share expenses.
They spend their day by touring the city and, back to the hotel, they have a dinner based on rice, then they go to their room for the night.
The next morning, Elisabetta gets up first. She tries to wake up Francesco who does not respond to her attempts. Alarmed by the situation, Elisabetta and Tomaso immediately call the reception and ask for an ambulance.
A taxi comes instead, that takes the group to the hospital. There, a doctor – who keeps puffing on his cigarette – declares “He’s gone”.
A real nightmare begins for the two Italians who are more and more upset. They ask for their friend’s body to be removed from the corridor. But, as no refrigerated morgue is available, Francesco is placed in a storage unit infested with rats.
In the early morning they see police bursting into their hotel room and asking for their passports; one policeman guards the door as the other shouts “why did you kill him?”
The end of the story is even more devastating: Tomaso and Elisabetta are arrested for allegedly murdering their friend. This accusation is even reinforced by the hotel manager’s claiming that a love triangle was going on based on the evidence that the three shared their room.
The post-mortem examination on Francesco’s body, performed not by a specialized pathologist but by an ophthalmologist, reveals the presence of neck injuries and that strangulation has taken place.
The trial is conducted in Hindi as the presence of an Italian translator is denied.
There are no doubts that serious errors are made during the trial.
A) At the hospital, Francesco’s body was kept for several hours into a storage room where rats may have caused all the injuries.
B) The post-mortem examination was conducted by an ophthalmologist and not a specialised medical doctor.
Elisabetta and Tomaso are sentenced to “Life in Prison”. According to the court the murder was the fallout of a love triangle.

This is briefly what happened. It has been more than two years since that day. Elisabetta and Tomaso are still there, locked up in a prison in terrible hygienic conditions. They sleep on a mat on the floor. The lavatories are always blocked with water and they are emptied only once in a while. They have been eating only rice and lentils for 24 months and silence by our institutions regarding this story sounds terribly absurd.
Personally, I was stricken by what happened to the two Italians; the treatment they get from the Indian government (and from our government) is unacceptable. Therefore I hope that in my small post you will spread the word and make people aware of this difficult situation.

Marina is Tomaso’s mother, who has obviously been living in a hell for the last two years, and this interview is dedicated to her.

Marina, first of all, I ask you to integrate what I have written above and to correct if there is any inaccuracy so everybody knows how things exactly happened.
The story that you described corresponds to the truth to a great extent. It would be too long and complicated to integrate and correct it.
How have these two years in Varanasi prison been, what do Tomaso and Elisabetta tell? Are you able to go and meet them sometimes?
They are dealing with the stress and the bad conditions of the detention quite well. They live in “barak”, big barns, Elisabetta with other 60/70 prisoners, as Tomaso stays with other 140. They live in a space of only about 2m.X 3, with the bed consisting of mats put on top of each other and the backpack with a few personal belongings hanging on the wall. The majority of their mates only speak Hindi. The women are almost all illiterate. They drink water from a well inside the prison and they often have allergy problems and illnesses related to malnutrition, their diet being deprived of proteins and vitamins. For 27 months we have been asking in vain for concession of a phone call every 15 days, which should be a legitimate right according to an international agreement also signed by India. We have the right of two monthly visits in prison and when my husband and I go to meet them, the meetings take place under an open arcade. The meetings do not last more than two hours.
To have extra visits, we have to pay and hope in the sympathy of the prison Director. Since February 7, 2010, the day of the arrest, we have been to Varanasi at least 12 times.

How comes the media are so indifferent to your case whereas, for instance, great attention has been given to the two Italian navy men case?
This is a question to which I have been giving many different answers but sincerely, still today, I don’t understand the silence of the media. It almost looks like an invisible hand blocking the spread of this news. In the last period, especially after the two soldiers case, we have obtained some little space on some major newspapers, weekly publications and passages on the news, especially the local ones, but after that everything is soon forgotten.
I know that trial proceedings for Tomaso and Elisabetta were affected by slowness and delays. And I have just read that the very appeal might be postponed to September. What would your reactions to such a possibility – that would even extend the length of the whole nightmare – be?
Unfortunately we can’t do anything but wait. “Wait”, this is the verb we have most frequently repeated over the last two years. We must have confidence in the abilities of our Indian lawyers, which – by the way – are from the same Law Firm defending the Italian marines. From mid-May to the end of June the Indian Courts are closed for the summer holidays. On the first of July we will present a request to the High Court of Allahabad for the Appeal Process to be scheduled. We hope this will start in September. Last March 26th the Undersecretary Staffan de Mistura received us in Rome and assured us of his full support. He said that our institutions are perfectly aware of our case and convinced of the innocence of Tomaso and Elisabetta, but so far we haven’t seen any change or tangible developments in the situation.

Marina, if you think we can be of any help, in any way, please write it on the post. Thanks for giving me the possibility to interview you.
We ask everyone to make this absurd story as widespread as possible and join the Facebook Groups “Tomaso Libero” and “Elisabetta Boncompagni”. We also ask you to participate in every initiative undertaken by the association “Alziamo la Voce” (Let’s raise our voice) that was also established to give economic support to ours and Elisabetta’s family and help us deal with the exorbitant legal expenses of the last two and a half years and those that are still to come until our children can come back home free.

Thank you, Marina. And thank you all for your help.


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