Italy honours victims of the 'years of lead': Relatives of those massacred in a station bombing 13 years ago are still fighting for justice, writes Fiona Leney in Bologna

FIVE DAYS after the car bombings of Milan and Rome the city of Bologna yesterday commemorated its own dead - the 85 victims of the bomb that destroyed the city's railway station on 2 August 1980.

Thousands filed silently through the city streets to the railway station. In a gesture of solidarity towns and cities from all over Italy sent their gonfalonieri, or flag-bearers.

Following them came ranks of red trade union banners and white standards bearing the place and dates of Italy's other outrages: Milan 1969, 16 dead; Brescia 1974, eight dead; a roll call of Italy's shame in the 'years of lead'.

Fear that last week's events in which five people died could be a prelude to a new campaign of terror was mixed with anger and pain that, more than a decade after the Bologna attack, its perpetrators are still at large. 'Justice and truth have made little headway in 13 years . . . there is no doubt in my mind that the forces that slaughtered the victims of Bologna were also behind last week's bombings,' says Torquato Secci, 80, who has campaigned tirelessly for justice as the head of the Association of Relatives of the Bologna Victims.

Mr Secci's son Sergio was 24 when he died in the rubble of the station waiting room. He had just started a promising career in film making and was on his way to sign a deal in northern Italy. 'He had missed his connection . . . otherwise he'd still be alive today,' his father says.

The youth of most of the victims was an additional obscenity. The Bologna blast had perhaps the clearest motive of all Italy's indiscriminate bombings. The city is a bastion of Communism a l'Italienne.

Thirteen people, four of them neo- fascists, were brought to trial for the bombing, Italy's worst terrorist massacre, in July 1988. Among them was Licio Gelli, the grandmaster of the illegal P2 Masonic Lodge, who was sentenced to seven years in jail for laying a trail of false evidence for investigators. The neo-fascists were given life sentences for the attack.

Two years later an appeal court overturned the verdicts on a procedural technicality and freed all 13. Gelli now lives in comfortable 'retirement' in Tuscany.

The bereaved families are pinning their hopes on a retrial, scheduled for 6 October. They have launched a publicity campaign in an attempt to exert pressure on the authorities to overturn the appeal verdict.

'If people expect us to resign ourselves to the truth never coming out, they are making a big mistake. We can never be resigned to the unjust death of our loved ones. The links between fascists and the secret services will one day have to be revealed. We want it to be at the trial,' says Mr Secci.

The cost of the 13-year legal battle has been put at 1bn lira, with much of the Association's funds raised by public subscription.

Among the crowd in the station's forecourt each August is a retired civil servant from Bath. Harry Mitchell is patiently explaining the proceedings to his mother. He says that contact with the other bereaved relatives has helped him and his wife, Shirley, cope with the loss of his daughter Catherine, killed with her boyfriend John Kolpinsky. Both were 22.

'They had just graduated and were doing the grand tour of Europe, and they thought they'd like to see the oldest university in the world,' he says. John's body was rapidly identified but there was a harrowing wait for news about Catherine. 'A few days before they went Catherine's watch broke and I lent her mine. That was how they finally identified her.'

Mr Mitchell has spent the last decade lobbying both Westminster and the European Parliament for the extradition to Italy of six neo-fascists who fled to the UK after the bombings. The most notorious of them, Roberto Fiore, still lives in London.

The tension in Bologna yesterday was palpable. The city, perhaps the ultimate symbol of the determination of Italy's terror victims to obtain justice, was saturated with police. Rooftop marksmen scanned the horizon as bodyguards propelled Italy's Prime Minister, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, through the throng to meet the relatives.

In the minute's silence on the stroke of 10.25, people stared at the jagged gash which has been glazed and incorporated into the side of the station waiting room next to platform one. It is a potent symbol - and not just for the people of Bologna.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat