In September last year, 19-year-old African-born Abdul Salam Guibre was beaten to death with metal poles by a shopkeeper and his son. Accused of merely stealing a packet of biscuits, the incident reignited the debate over racism in the country. Now, CCTV footage of the event has been revealed.
Burkina Faso-born Guibre had lived in Italy almost his entire life. Early on the morning of 14 September last year, Guibre entered a shop with two friends. Accounts differ, but it is thought that Guibre was accused of pick-pocketing a packet of biscuits by shopkeepers 51-year-old Fausto Cristofoli and Daniele Cristofol, 31, (their lawyers say the pair believed that the group had stolen their float as well). A dispute then broke out between the group and witnesses reported that the pair shouted "thieving niggers" and other racist insults as they attacked Guibre. He fell into a come and died a few hours later.
The trial is set to open on April 21. Yet prosecutors are unlikely to claim the attack was racially motivated since the video footage taken by a surveillance camera and produced during the trial was mute. The attackers have been accused of murder and face a prison sentence of up to 30 years. They could see their jail term reduced to just a third of that, however, after they asked to be tried via an shorter procedure (Rito abbreviato), thereby forgoing the possibility of an appeal.
"The more numerous the immigrants became, the more numerous the racists became"
Aly Baba Faye is a sociology teacher originally from Senegal. He moved to Italy at the age of 22 and has lived in Rome for 25 years.
It was very different when I arrived in the early eighties. In those times there were less than 10,000 foreigners in the country. There really wasn't a culture of diversity like there was already in France and the UK. The only kind of problem I had was curiosity - ‘what is Senegal?' Nothing hostile. It was in the 1990s that things started to change. In 1989 a group of African refugees were killed in Naples. In 1992 the Northern League was born. And the more numerous the immigrants became, the more numerous the racists became. In 1993 I was attacked by a gang in broad daylight, telling me to go back where I came from. Luckily some passers-by called the police and I was saved.
There are other things. The way people look at you and mutter about you on the bus or train, as though you're dangerous. That would never have happened in the eighties. Now if you want to rent a house, you'll get a viewing appointment over the phone alright, but as soon as you get there and they see you're black, you'll either get told ‘it's already gone' or quite simply ‘the neighbours don't want to live next to foreigners'. It's become quite normal for people to admit they're ‘anti-foreign' and talk about it freely. They don't differentiate between migrants and nationals with foreign parents. Abba [Guibre] was Italian, he lived here all his life.
In most countries you have to pay for a crime against an immigrant. In Italy, there's the mafia, there's the Vatican. Laws are bent, and in any case you're forgiven by god. ‘Va bene' they'll say. Two days after the march for Abba's murder [7,000 staged protests in Milan], they were already saying ‘life goes on'."
The CCTV footage