ROME — Fifty-two prison officer have been suspended for their alleged involvement in an assault on inmates who had protested the lack of face masks and virus tests during the peak of Italy’s pandemic last year, the justice ministry said Wednesday.
Surveillance video of the club-wielding officers beating, kicking and punching prisoners in a holding room and as they came up and down a staircase were published online Tuesday and Wednesday by the newspaper Il Domani.
Some of the prisoners at the Santa Maria Capua Vetere prison in Naples were struck repeatedly while on the floor, bleeding, or as they walked with their hands behind their bowed heads. None was seen resisting or trying to fight back.
Italy’s justice ministry said 52 officers and supervisors had been suspended, pending a criminal investigation into the events of April 6, 2020.
Justice Minister Marta Cartabia ordered a full internal investigation into what transpired. She called the episode a betrayal of the Italian constitution, “an offense and an outrage to the dignity of prisoners,” as well as to officers who do their jobs well.
“Faced with such grave facts, words are not enough,” Cartabia said in a statement. “It’s necessary to take action to understand and eliminate the causes, so that things like this never happen again.”
Italian prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into what some prisoners called a “massacre” after they protested the lack of coronavirus protections following a positive case in the prison during the peak of Italy’s outbreak last year.
The officers were seen wearing face masks and some even delivered their blows wearing latex gloves. The prisoners had no masks.