Italy's Corinaldo tragedy: Pepper spray stampede suspects face judge
The stampede at the Lanterna Azzurra (Blue Lantern) club was a tragedy that traumatised Italy in December 2018, leaving five teenagers and a woman dead.
Two hundred others, mainly young Italians, were injured in the panic in the crowded club in Corinaldo.
Six men were facing a judge at a court hearing in Ancona, central Italy, on Thursday on charges of manslaughter.
Prosecutors believe the panic was started deliberately to rob the crowd.
But it swiftly became a disaster, known in the Italian media as the "Corinaldo massacre", with Pope Francis saying prayers for the victims in St Peter's Square.
What happened at the club?
The Lanterna Azzurra club was overflowing with young fans of popular rapper Sfera Ebbasta.
At least 1,400 people had gathered for the event in the small town near Ancona in the Marche region of central Italy. However, the venue was big enough for fewer than 900, police say.
Most of the victims at the club were aged between 14 and 16, and were enjoying the 8 December public holiday on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The largely young crowd was waiting for Sfera Ebbasta, the stage name of 27-year-old Gionata Boschetti, when pepper spray was released at around 01:00 (00:00 GMT) on 8 December.
People rushed in panic towards the emergency exits but railings gave way and people fell off a walkway.
Many of the 200 people injured suffered crushing wounds and broken limbs.
In addition to the criminal charges brought, the Marche region is seeking, as a civil party, damages for costs incurred in the emergency response to the disaster.
Who were the victims?
The eldest of the six who died was 39-year-old mother-of-four Eleonora Girolimini, who was at the club with her 11-year-old daughter and her husband.
Her body was found by her daughter, and her husband tried in vain to resuscitate her., according to Ancona Today.
The other victims were all children:
- Emma Fabini, 14, was a model student at her school who had been allowed to attend the concert as a reward for good conduct, Il Resto Del Carlino quotes her mother as saying
- Asia Nasoni, 14, was like a "ray of sunshine" who "faced every day with a smile and enthusiasm", her grandmother Tiziana was quoted as saying by Corriere Adriatico
- Benedetta Vitali, 15, known as Beba, was a "bundle of joy", her older brother Francesco told La Repubblica, adding: "I'd give anything to find her here, dancing alone with her headphones... It's not fair to die at 15"
- Mattia Orlandi, 15, had a passion for football, attending matches with his father Giuseppe, who was quoted by Il Resto Del Carlino as saying: "Life is over for me and my wife"
- Daniele Pongetti, 16, known as Dany, was a keen footballer; in a tribute to her "little giant", his mother Donatella Magagnini wrote: "I give you my life as I always have and you continue to tell me what you are doing in my dreams", Centro Pagina reports
Who are the suspects?
Now in their early twenties and from the Modena area of the northern Emilia-Romagna region, the six men were arrested on 2 August of last year.
They are named as Ugo Di Puorto, Andrea Cavallari, Moez Akari, Raffaele Mormone, Souhaib Haddada and Badr Amouiyah.
As well as manslaughter, the suspects face charges of criminal association, causing bodily harm and theft.
A seventh man, 65-year-old Andrea Balugani, was arrested for receiving stolen goods and criminal association. He has entered a plea bargain which involves a prison sentence of just under five years.
Is the alleged crime unique?
On 3 June 2017, thieves set off pepper spray at an open-air screening of the Champions League football final on Turin's San Carlo Square, causing a stampede in which two women died and 1,672 people were injured.
Four Moroccan nationals were convicted of setting off the spray in order to steal money and were jailed in May 2019 for just over 10 years for manslaughter.
Cans of pepper spray, commonly used by women for personal protection, can be bought legally in Italy and many other European countries, but are banned, for instance, in the UK.
Pepper spray is an irritant similar to tear gas but made with different components.