December 10, 2009

Travel Warning

PERUGIA, ITALY has issued a warning to U.S. citizens of the dangers of travel to, and education in, Perugia, Italy.  While security in Italy has improved somewhat with respect to Mafia activity, Perugia remains a “justice-free” zone.  The potential for violence by drug dealers and murderers, and kidnapping and unlawful incarceration by prosecutors and other criminal elements exists in all parts of the city. 
On November 5, 2007, the Polizei in Perugia took two hostages, including one American, without evidence or justification, and has held them captive for more than two years. Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of wrongfully incarcerated Americans, it is U.S. policy not to take steps that may interfere with trade relations, military cooperation, and politics as usual. Consequently, the U.S. government's ability to assist incarceration victims is limited.

We urge foreign students studying in Perugia area to take precautions not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We further urge them to consider the implications of two of their fellow students being incarcerated for most of their lives for a crime they did not commit. While study abroad may be an enriching experience for some, in this justice-free zone, it can be a life changing experience, and not for the better.

The incidence of kidnapping and incarceration by authorities in Perugia has increased significantly in recent years. Local prosecutors continue to kidnap and hold civilians to seek media attention and career advancement.  No one is immune from incarceration on the basis of nationality, innocence, or other factors. 

We further urge students and tourists visiting Perugia to retain legal counsel in advance of their trip, since local authorities routinely deny access to counsel to those being interrogated and charged. In addition, in view of the sizable costs of legal representation and the potential for arbitrary and immense civil lawsuit awards, either a large insurance policy or possession of wealth measured in many millions of dollars is a good idea.  It is important that insurance coverage extend to family members. Parents of students incarcerated in Perugia have been subject to similar baseless charges as a result of being supportive of offspring.
Demonstrations may have an anti-American character. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful have the potential to turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. Celebrations of tragedies befalling Americans have been known to occur both among the civilian population and the police department.
 News coverage of those wrongfully accused and arrested in the Perugian area may take on a biased and sensationalistic tone. Despite confidentiality requirements, Perugian investigators and prosecutors routinely leak distorted versions of statements, communications, and evidence to create the appearance of guilt and to enhance their own prestige.
For additional information about the ongoing injustice being perpetrated against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, see