- Title: ITALY: Police arrest 24 accused of planning violent Veneto secession
- Date: 2nd April 2014
- Summary: VENICE, ITALY (FILE - FEBRUARY 2014) (REUTERS) GRAND CANAL VARIOUS OF BOATS ROWING DOWN GRAND CANAL
- Embargoed: 17th April 2014 13:00
- Location: Italy
- Country: Italy
- Topics: Crime,Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA9ZUH7E6G8QDVG65WGKX5W862O
- Story Text: Italian police arrested 24 Veneto secessionists including a former parliamentarian on Wednesday (April 2) accused of gathering arms to violently bring about the independence of the wealthy northern region from Italy.
The group had converted a tractor into a tank with a makeshift cannon and intended to use it in an assault on Venice's St. Mark's Square, police said.
The plan was reminiscent of the 1997 seizure of the piazza's famed bell tower by armed separatists who proclaimed an independent Venetian republic.
Police searched premises across several regions of Italy and announced they had arrested 24 people on suspicion of terrorism, subversion of the democratic order and the making and possession of weapons of war.
Those arrested included Franco Rocchetta, police said, a former deputy and campaigner for Venetian independence who helped organise a self-styled "referendum" which caught international attention last month.
Organisers of the informal online poll said 89 percent of respondents had voted for Veneto to break away from Italy, which added to the debate over the Russian annexation of Crimea and independent movements in Catalonia and Scotland.
The arrests came as parliament voted to scrap a law that made clandestine immigration a criminal offence, enraging the Northern League, an anti-immigration party with four percent of seats in parliament which has long campaigned for autonomy for Italy's rich northern regions.
The group, of which Rocchetta was a founding member, announced it would rally in the northern city of Verona on Sunday (April 6) to protest the arrests and the softening of the immigration law.
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