One of 15 immigrants arrested in March 2002 in connection with a supposed plot to attack the US Embassy in Rome with chemical agents has been awarded $133,000 for wrongful detention. Tunisian-born Abdelmoname Ben Khalifa Mansour, initially charged with being an al-Qaeda agent, is the first person to be compensated for being falsely arrested under an Italian anti-terrorism law passed shortly after 9-11. Mansour, now 37, spent a year and a half behind bars before being exonerated. The evidence centered on a red substance found in a locked cabinet, maps of Rome with the US and British embassies supposedly marked in red, a hole chipped out of a utility tunnel under the US Embassy and hours of wiretaps. The substance, described by newspapers as a cyanide compound, was potassium ferricyanide, a readily available substance used in photography. It turned out the maps had been marked to indicate the site of a restaurant in the embassy district, the hole was too small for an adult to crawl through, and the wiretapped conversations were mostly indecipherable.
Bianca Stancanelli, author of Fifteen Innocent Terrorists, a book on the trial, said the case was politically motivated by the administration of then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. “You have to look at the investigation as something that was meant to solidify the axis between Bush and Berlusconi, showing America that we were faithful allies and ready to protect everyone from everything,” she said. (NYT, March 18)
We noted at the time of the busts that it all sounded rather dubious.