2 U.S. Women Studying in Florence, Italy, Accuse Police Officers of Rape

A view of the exterior of a nightclub where, according to reports, early Thursday, Sept. 7, a carabinieri patrol car, which was with two other patrol cars called to investigate a fight outside the disco, picked up two students from the United States and drove them to their apartment and allegedly raped them inside, in Florence, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Florence prosecutors are investigating allegations by the two students that they were raped by Carabinieri policemen who escorted them home in a patrol car.
(Maurizio degl’Innocenti/ANSA via AP)

The Italian authorities are investigating accusations by two American women studying abroad in Florence that they were raped on Thursday by two uniformed members of Italy’s Carabinieri police force, and Italy’s defense minister said there appeared to be “some basis” to the allegations.

The accusations have generated considerable coverage in the country’s news media and have shaken Florence’s large community of people involved in study-abroad programs.

“Rape is always a serious matter,” Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said Friday at a conference on women’s issues. “But it’s of unprecedented seriousness if it is committed by Carabinieri in uniform.” The Carabinieri is a paramilitary police force that operates under the control of the Defense Ministry.

The two women — 19 and 21, according to local news media reports — have accused the two police officers of raping them in the entrance and elevator of their apartment building in the center of Florence before dawn on Thursday. The officers, who are reportedly in their 30s, have denied the allegations, and they have not been charged.

The officers had responded to a call at a club, Flo, where a brawl had broken out and apparently met the women there, according to Italian officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of the investigation.

The Florence police said the club’s cameras showed the women leaving with two officers. The women told prosecutors that they were intoxicated and had smoked marijuana that evening, according to Italian news media reports, and that the officers accompanied them to their apartment in a service vehicle. The women live in Borgo Santi Apostoli, in the historic center of the city.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Jason Horowitz