Kelly Duda, testifying in Naples at the trial which followed the great scandal of infected blood that was also used in Italy for transfusions, allegedly declared that this would be a disgrace in his country. The Legal Aid Office of Ossigeno, the Media Legal Defends Initiative (MLDI) and Free Press Unlimited consider the issue “strategic” for the defence of freedom of expression.
Ossigeno has taken on the defence of the well-known American journalist Kelly Duda, 54 years old, considered the best expert on the background and the details of the major scandal of infected blood that in the 80s and 90s, in Italy and in many other countries was used for transfusions causing serious illness in thousands of patients.
With his investigative journalism and a video documentary known all over the world, Kelly Duda has contributed more than anyone else to shed light on the affair. Now in Rome he faces two criminal trials, in relation to a phrase he allegedly uttered after testifying at the request of the plaintiffs, on the 4th December 2017 at a hearing at the Court of Naples.
Ossigeno considers this judicial matter strategically important for the defence of freedom of the press and expression. Therefore, with the support of the international associations Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) and Free Press Unlimited, Ossigeno has decided to assist Kelly Duda at its own expense, entrusting his defence to the lawyer Andrea Di Pietro, coordinator of Ossigeno’s Legal Aid Office.
The American journalist received a double indictment before the Court of Rome, in front of two different criminal sections, accused of having offended the prestige and dignity of the public prosecutor of Naples Lucio Giuliano during a hearing.
This offence, covered by article 343 of the Italian Penal Code is punishable by up to three years in prison. The Court of Rome is the competent court because the party alleged to have been offended is a magistrate of the Court of Naples. Both trials should have taken place in recent weeks, but have been postponed to a later date due to trials being suspended during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In Ossigeno’s opinion, the journalist legitimately expressed his opinion and did so respectfully
In an interview with Gennaro Grimolizzi, published on May 6th 2020 in the newspaper “Il Dubbio”, (read at https://www.ildubbio.news/tag/kelly-duda/) Kelly Duda described his Italian misadventure, thanked Ossigeno per l’Informazione (Oxygen for Information) and Attorney Andrea Di Pietro for taking up his legal defence and added:
“I have travelled extensively in Italy and have never had qualms about testifying in court. I came to Naples to make a contribution to Italian justice in the blood products trial and now I find myself in a paradoxical situation. My only mission was to help those also among you who have fallen victim to infected blood “.
THE NAPLES TRIAL – On December 4th 2017 Kelly Duda was called by the plaintiffs (represented by the lawyers Bertone and Zancla) to testify at the criminal trial that was underway in Naples of Duilio Poggiolini and representatives of pharmaceutical companies that in the 80s and 90s produced and marketed in Italy blood products (mainly the clotting Factor VIII) obtained from infected plasma coming in part from the blood donated by prisoners in Arkansas.
Kelly Duda got into trouble from the expression that he, at the end of the hearing, allegedly used when he shook hands with the prosecutor : “In my country, what you did today would be considered a disgrace.” The prosecuting magistrate reacted by calling the court police who arrested the journalist and made him hand over his passport. The magistrate asked for Kelly Duda to be detained for his behaviour but the charges were not considered to justify such a measure. However, the magistrate formally accused the journalist of the offence for which he must now answer to the Court of Rome.
At the Naples trial the defendants’ lawyers and the public prosecutor Lucio Giuliano had opposed the decision to admit the testimony of Kelly Duda who was present in the courtroom. In the end, however, the testimony was admitted. The reporter testified and was listened to for four hours. As a clear expert very knowledgeable about the story of the infected blood, Duda helped clarify the dynamics of the events and the role of some of the parties involved . During the hearing, he was able to show an excerpt from his video documentary “Factor 8: The Arkansas Prison Blood Scandal”: including the interview with Dr. Henderson, owner and medical director of Health Management Associates, the US company that acquired and marketed the blood donated in the prison in Arkansas. Henderson maintained relationships with the companies that bought the donated blood and transformed it into blood products. Henderson declared that in October-November 1982 he went to Italy and met the representatives of a pharmaceutical company based in Rieti whose name he could not remember (it was ascertained that it was AIMA Plasmaderivati of the Marcucci group based in Rieti) to explain his company’s position on the issue of the withdrawn plasma.
On Marc 25th 2019 the Court of Naples acquitted Duilio Poggiolini and the nine representatives of the Italian pharmaceutical company Marcucci who were charged with manslaughter for a series of deaths of patients who had received transfusions of plasma produced in the 1980s and 90s subsequently found to have been infected. At the time of the distribution of that plasma, Duilio Poggiolini was head of the pharmaceutical sector of the Ministry of Health. In those years 2,605 Italians were infected and contracted HIV and hepatitis.
Read also: Who is Kelly Duda?