Father and son liberated from Guinean imprisonment

ROME – Two Italians incarcerated in Equatorial Guinea have returned to Italy after the end of three years in captivity in the African backwater, the Italian foreign ministry said.

 Fabio and Filippo Galassi, aged 63 and 25, had been serving a prison sentence for tax offences, finding themselves at the centre of a contentious legal saga. Fabio had been condemned to 33 years’ imprisonment whilst his son, Filippo, received 21 years.

 The pair had settled in Guinea in 2010, a country which has remained under the presidency of Teodoro Obiang since 1979, working for the company “General Work”, largely owned by the president’s son.

 Their visions of a dream job quickly unravelled into a nightmare. The company began the struggle – workers no longer received wages as the owners’ firm grip on the business tightened.

 In the spring of 2015, the burden fell heavily upon the Italian family. Accused of attempting to flee the country with funds stolen from both the company and the government, they were arrested and transferred to Bata, where they would be incarcerated.

 Following their initial arrest, they were convicted by the Guinean Supreme Court, in Jan 2016, on charges of tax crimes, money laundering and fraudulent bankruptcy, none of which in turn, had any basis. Despite bearing documents to prove their innocence, alongside the fact that money was never found in their possession, the Galassis remained in Guinea until their long-due return to Fiumicino Airport today.

 Mrs. Strippoli, mother of Felippo, had expressed her agony at the situation, lamenting the pain of not seeing her son in over two years, adding that “politics and institutions left me alone”.

 The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Angelino Alfano, posted a tweet in which he stated, “Fabio and Filippo Galassi have just come out of prison. I thank the Government of Equatorial Guinea for the humanitarian gesture”.

 Detained in reportedly alarming conditions, both men’s state of health had deteriorated. Philip had been taken ill with malaria and salmonella while Fabio had required urgent treatment for prostate cancer. Their liberation and safe homecoming offers comfort to their family, albeit mere consolation after three years of hurt, and arises a triumph for justice after a hugely drawn out process.