Married To The Mob: Murderous Family Drama Unfolds In An Italian Court

An Italian mobster is on trial for allegedly killing his ex-wife. Their teenage daughter, hoping to "re-start her life," will take the witness stand -- testifying not only against her father, but also against a pair of gangster uncles an

A street scene in Milan, Italy
A street scene in Milan, Italy
Giovanna Trinchella

Lea Garofalo's life and death seem to be part of a Greek tragedy -- or a crime novel. Her story, however, is all too real. A woman from Calabria, Garofalo flipped on her mobster husband's family, going to the police with details about numerous crimes. In revenge, the mafia kidnapped her from the center of Milan, killed her, and dissolved her body in acid. This story is not being told in a book, but in a Milan Court of Justice, where the trial against six men charged for Garofalo's murder has just begun.

"You will get involved in this trial, because this is a tragic human story," Milan District Attorney Maurizio Tatangelo told the jurors. Garofalo's husband, Carlo Cosco, is accused of killing his ex-wife with the help of his relatives. Their 19-year-old daughter, Denise, will testify against her father, two of his brothers, and her own ex-fiance. All of the men are accused of murdering her mother.

In 1996, Garofalo left her husband after he was arrested. In 2002, she decided to cooperate with the police, telling them everything she knew the murders and extortions Cosco and her other mobster family members had carried out. Garofalo and her daughter spent years in a witness protection program.

In April 2009, the then 37-year-old Garofalo stopped cooperating with the police. Maybe she knew that Cosco was close to finding her. A policeman had reportedly revealed her location. Garofalo tried to get in touch with Cosco,who allegedly asked his bosses within the "Ndrangheta crime syndicate for permission to kill her.

In May 2009, a man disguised as a repair technician entered Garofalo's house under the guise that he needed to check her washing machine. He man attacked and tried to choke Garofalo. Denise, who that day was not at school, saved her mother. The girl will testify at the trial. "I am proud to cooperate with the police. It is not easy to testify against your own father, but this is a choice for my own freedom, and to re-start my life," she said in a statement read by her lawyer, Enza Rando.

At some point between Nov. 24 and 25, 2009 Garofalo disappeared. Milan's security cameras filmed her last movements. At 6:37 p.m. she got into a car. She was brought to a warehouse and between Nov. 26 and 28 her body was dissolved in acid.

The accused are pleading not guilty. Cosco's lawyer, Daniel Sussaman, claims his client was trying to find his ex wife because he wanted to see his daughter, not to kill the woman. The trial is ongoing.

Read the original article in Italian

Photo - pasotraspaso

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How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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