The letter alleges police harassment and intimidation against Frank, apparently orchestrated by Giuliano Mignini, chief prosecutor in the Meredith Kercher case. Frank, it seems, is awaiting trial on a charge of assaulting a police officer. But the crux of the story is that is looks like the police may also suspect him of some other crime.
I don’t think the central allegations made by Frank can be assessed without information about what this crime may be and what evidence there may or may not be against him. Because for the police to investigate a crime about which they have evidence does not constitute harassment or intimidation, provided, of course, they do not behave significantly differently to the way they would in the normal course of things.
Anyway, I thought it was time for an update on all this, mainly because the outcry that might have been expected in the international media has not really materialised yet (there was a blog post by the co-producer of the dreadful Amanda Knox documentary on CBS American Girl, Italian Nightmare, and that’s about it). Surely this is something that somebody should be writing about?
The True Justice website has stepped into the void with a detailed two-part rebuttal to the letter. This makes its case quite clearly and is well worth reading. But I don’t think you need to agree with everything they say point-for-point, or even generally share their views about the Kercher case, to put the letter next to the rebuttal and realise that the Committee to Protect Journalists ought to be asking itself some searching questions.
In particular, there’s something that True Justice imply fairly clearly, but which I feel the need to really highlight. The letter seems to have had a genesis which is somehow murky but also completely transparent at the same time.
Someone called Douglas Preston has harboured (or, possibly, opportunistically cultivated) a grudge against someone called Giuliano Mignini, a prosecutor in the Kercher case. This has its origins in the fact that, a few years ago, Mignini put Preston on a charge, probably with some justification, suspecting him of unethically and illegally conspiring to pervert the course of a police investigation. Preston has since attached himself to a campaign to undermine Mignini’s prosecution of Amanda Knox (which he is, of course, entitled to do).
I would suggest it is at least possible that Preston has ended up, somehow, talking to a representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists on behalf an adventurous but possibly reckless blogger, who is a key figure in the Free Amanda campaign. Because Preston is a significant donor to the Committee to Protect Journalists, someone from the aforementioned Committee agrees to write down everything he and/or the blogger says and, without asking any of the questions that really ought to be asked, faithfully turns that into a letter which is then published on the Internet.
In short, the Committee to Protect Journalists appears to me to have turned a trick in pursuance of someone’s personal vendetta. It really should hang its head and, quite arguably, its apparently gutless Executive Director, Joel Simon.
None of the above should be taken as meaning that Frank Sfarzo has no legitimate complaint. I couldn’t possibly know for sure whether he does or he doesn’t. But the point is that I doubt Joel Simon has any idea either.
There are quite a few items of information in the True Justice rebuttal that shed light into some of the gloomy corners of this affair. For example, Preston’s inexplicably warm attitude to Mignini in an interview a year after being charged by him. What’s changed since then? Has a bandwaggon turned his head?
There is also the fact that Frank actually filmed one of the incidents complained about in the letter and included the video in this blog post. In the letter, “several members of Squadra Mobile … approached him just outside the city court … and started to push and hit him”. This gives an impression that is totally different from what can be seen in the film.
In full view of dozens of potential witnesses to any police brutality that might take place, Frank seems to be pushed or pulled to the side by someone (not gently, and possibly by a police officer) after failing to heed a request not to shove his camera directly into the face of Meredith Kercher’s sister as she leaves court. Whether that was entirely necessary in order to protect her I can’t easily say, since I wasn’t there. You can watch the video and decide for yourself precisely how unfair it looks.
Note: A further update is here.