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Giuseppe "Pino" Pinelli (October 21, 1928 – December 15, 1969) was an Italian railway worker and anarchist activist, who died in the custody of Italian police in 1969 after being arrested. Pinelli was a member of the Milan Circle "Ponte della Ghisolfa". He was also the secretary of the Italian branch of the Anarchist Black Cross. His death, which according to part of the public opinion was at the hands of the police, is the inspiration for Dario Fo's play Accidental Death of an Anarchist.

Early life

Pinelli was born into a working class family. He worked as an errand boy and then a warehouse worker, but still found time to read and become active with a Milanmarker-area anarchist group in 1944 and other groups later, including a group which published a weekly paper Il Libertario.

In 1954 he found work as a railroad fitter. In 1955 he married Licia Rognini, whom he had met in an Esperanto evening course.

During the 1960s he continued anarchist activism. He organized young anarchists in the Gioventu Libertaria (Libertarian Youth) in 1963. He helped found the Sacco and Vanzetti Circle in 1965. He founded the Ponte della Ghisolfa Circle (named after the nearby bridge) in 1968.

Circumstances of his death

On December 12, 1969 a bomb went off at the Piazza Fontanamarker in Milanmarker that killed 16 people and injured 84. Pinelli was picked up, along with other anarchists, for questioning regarding the attack. He was held and interrogated for three days, longer than Italian law specified that people could be held without seeing a judge. Just before midnight on December 15, 1969 Pinelli was seen to fall to his death from a fourth floor window of the Milan police station. Three police officers interrogating Pinelli, including Commissioner Luigi Calabresi, were put under investigation in 1971 for his death, but legal proceedings concluded it was due to accidental causes.

Pinelli's name has since been cleared, and the far-right Ordine Nuovo was accused of the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing (in 2001, three Italian Neo-fascists were convicted, a sentence overturned in March 2004; a fourth defendant, Carlo Di Giglio, was a suspected CIA informant who became a witness for the state and received immunity from prosecution).

Calabresi was later killed by two shots from a revolver outside his home in 1972. In 1988, former Lotta continua leader Adriano Sofri was arrested with Ovidio Bompressi and Giorgio Pietrostefani for Calabresi's murder. The charges against them were based on testimony provided, sixteen years later, by Leonardo Marino, an ex-militant who accused himself of having carried out the murder of Calabresi, under order from Adriano Sofri. Claiming his innocence, Sofri was finally sentenced after a long series of trials, in 2000, giving rise to a book from historian Carlo Ginzburg, The Judge and the Historian: Marginal Notes on a Late Twentieth-Century Miscarriage of Justice.

Pinelli's death is the inspiration for Dario Fo's play Accidental Death of an Anarchist, although in the original script his name was not mentioned explicitly.

Pinelli's death was also subject of a major painting, "Funeral Of The Anarchist Pinelli" by Italian artist Enrico Baj as well as of the political documentary film "12 dicembre" (1972) directed by Giovanni Bonfanti and based on an idea by Pier Paolo Pasolini.


  1. Italian justice has used a system of [state witnesses] "collaboratori di giustizia-collaborators with justice" to fight against terrorism and the mafia.


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