Investigators in Italy are now looking into allegations that two American students were raped by law enforcement in that nation.
According to Italy’s Carabinieri Paramilitary Police Corps, the two officers in question have been suspended during preliminary investigations into the claims made by the two American students in Florence while on duty.
A media report from the Carabinieri Provincial Office’s Command Center in Florence acknowledged that the two offers were notified Saturday of the measure until further investigations can conclude.
The Carabinieri suspension is not the typical protocol for alleged conduct while on duty, but due to the international media coverage the agency wants to ensure that they do not allow to potential rapists to continue on the force while efforts are made to prove or disprove the claims.
The suspension in itself will be separate from any Florence prosecutors’ criminal investigations of the alleged rapes, which could lead to further charged.
The victims were two women who told authorities that the police, in uniform, drove them home from a nightclub on early Thursday morning because they couldn’t find a taxi, then later raped them inside their apartment building.
Italian authorities said the two 21 year old students were questioned by Prosecutors for several hours about their allegations to make sure they had proper descriptions of the officers before taking action.
Investigators are currently awaiting results from DNA tests to see if they corroborate the women’s account of the way the events unfolded.
With the rape allegations aside, the policemen still could risk disciplinary charges for driving the women home without informing their superiors first.
The students are studying Italian in Florence, Italy and have until now never dealt with the law enforcement agencies in the region.
Italy has two main police forces that patrol its streets and inner cities, one being the paramilitary Carabinieri, which are supervised under the Italian Defense Ministry , and then the State Police , who report to the Interior Ministry .
Italy’s Defense Minister said the two policemen could also face rape charges if the evidence turns up against them as a result of the DNA tests.
“Investigation is still underway, but there is some basis in respect to the allegations,” Minister Roberta Pinotti said Friday evening at a forum about women’s issues in Milan.
“Rape is always something grave. But it’s of unprecedented gravity if it is committed by Carabinieri in uniform, because citizens turns to them and to their uniform to have assurances and security.”
Italian media confirms that three patrol cars went to the nightclub to investigate a call over a fight. They say two of those cars left after handling the fight, but the third remained.
News reports also described witnesses as confirming that they saw the women enter the patrol car with the officers who they say gave them a ride home.
The United States Consul General in Florence met for about an hour with Florence’s State Police Chief Friday morning about the case, in which they determined to carry out the suspension.
The U.S. Embassy in Rome refused to comment further “due to the sensitive nature of this case and to protect the privacy of those involved.”
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