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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Canadian Ambassador to Italy grilled over taser death

December 5, 2007
By Angelo Persichilli, Embassy Magazine

In September, an Italian immigrant died in Quebec City after being shot by a Taser, and after months with no answers, Rome is putting the pressure on Canada's ambassador.

TORONTO: Concerned with the lack of information they have received about an Italian-Canadian who was shot with a Taser and died while in police custody in September, the Italian government summoned Canada's ambassador to Rome to the country's foreign ministry on Monday to file an official complaint.

While there has been little information released about Claudio Castagnetta's death, media reports stated the 32-year-old wandered into a Quebec City convenience store on Sept. 18 in his bare feet, appearing disoriented and confused. The storeowner called police after Mr. Castagnetta refused to leave, and, after a brief struggle, police used a Taser to subdue the Italian immigrant. He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Mr. Castagnetta, who didn't have a criminal record, died in his prison cell two days later.

The Italian ambassador in Ottawa, Gabriele Sardo, said he sent letters to Quebec Premier Jean Charest and his Minister of Justice Jacques Dupuis, but besides confirming they had received the documents, "after more then two months, we had no answers," he said. "They only acknowledged the reception of the letters," Mr. Sardo said. "This is not acceptable and obviously doesn't look good to the international reputation of this country."

The Italian foreign ministry also sent a letter to Canadian Ambassador Alex Himelfarb, but a source close to the Italian government in Rome said the ambassador's reply was that the issue did not fall within federal jurisdiction, but rather it was a provincial matter. This, the source said, placed the Italian government in an awkward position because normally it does not interact with provincial governments.

After two months without any answers, the Italian government decided to step up the pressure by calling Mr. Himelfarb to La Farnesina, the complex in the outskirts of Rome housing the Italian foreign ministry. The Italian government will not cease its efforts to get an answer, the source said, "until we will get all the information we need to understand how and why this young Italian died in Quebec City."

Mr. Charest's office and the Department of Foreign Affairs did not respond to questions yesterday, while Philippe Archambault, Mr. Dupuis's spokesman, said he could not comment on the case as the Quebec provincial police and the province's coroner are conducting separate investigations. He did, however, confirmed that Quebec's justice minister had received a letter from the Italian embassy.

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