Posts misrepresent legal proceedings against Italian officials over vaccines

Advocacy groups requested an investigation into former Italian health minister Roberto Speranza for deaths purportedly caused by Covid-19 vaccines, but social media posts claiming the official is being actively investigated for murder are missing context. Local media report the case has been requested for dismissal, and a legal expert says this means charges are not likely to be pursued.

"Italian Health Minister Gave Orders To Conceal Vaccination Deaths -- Now Under Investigation For Murder," says Alex Jones in a December 12, 2023 post on X, formerly Twitter -- where the InfoWars host was reinstated after being banned in 2018.

The post, which accumulated more than 32,000 likes, includes a clip that references a Substack article claiming former Italian health minister Roberto Speranza and former Italian Medicines Agency director Nicola Magrini are under investigation for murder for allegedly concealing adverse Covid-19 vaccine effects.

Image
Screenshot of a post on X, taken December 22, 2023
Image
Screenshot of a Substack article, taken December 22, 2023

The claims spread in other articles and social media posts, some calling for similar investigations in other countries.

"This should be happening in Canada as well," says Mark Friesen, an activist and former political candidate in the province of Saskatchewan, in a December 18 X post.

Image
Screenshot of a post on X, taken December 22, 2023

Speranza was Italy's health minister from 2019 until 2022 and oversaw the country's early coronavirus pandemic response and vaccination campaign.

One of the first instances of the claim about his supposed investigation appeared in the Italian newspaper La Verita, which reported November 22 that the Rome public prosecutor's office was looking into Speranza and Magrini for administering faulty medicines. 

The posts and articles say the Italian advocacy group Listen to Me, along with some police unions and the financial police, filed legal complaints against Speranza and Magrini, referencing a document allegedly showing the politicians' names in the record at the Rome public prosecutor's office. 

However, on November 23, 2023, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported that the prosecutor's office had already requested the investigation not proceed (archived here). Italy's public broadcaster, RAI, also reported the case had been forwarded to the Court of Ministers with a request for dismissal, citing Speranza's lawyer (archived here).

Ugo Mattei, a professor at the University of California-San Francisco specializing in international law, told AFP in a January 8, 2024 email that given Speranza's position as a minister, the court would have to clear any plans to investigate him.

Mattei said a decision on whether to drop the charges will come within 90 days of filing the request.

Searching for Italian keywords related to an investigation did not reveal further reporting about the case (archived here).

AFP contacted Speranza and the Rome public prosecutor's office for comment, but responses were not forthcoming.

Speranza did face a judicial inquiry for the government's response at the beginning of the pandemic, when the northern region of Bergamo saw one of the most intense waves of early infection. Speranza announced on Facebook that the investigation, which centered on whether the government underestimated the contagiousness of Covid-19, was closed in June 2023.

Vaccines recommended

Numerous studies estimate Covid-19 vaccines have saved millions of lives worldwide. While rare serious side effects are associated with inoculation, physicians have consistently told AFP the benefits outweigh the risks.

Italy continues to monitor vaccine safety but has ceased dedicated reports on adverse Covid-19 vaccine effects due to "the substantially stable trend" (archived here). 

In Canada, authorities have found that of 455 deaths reported following Covid-19 vaccination, four have a causal association (archived here). The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes people receiving the shots are at no greater risk of dying from non-coronavirus related causes than unvaccinated people (archived here).

More of AFP's reporting on misinformation about Covid-19 and vaccines is available here.

Is there content that you would like AFP to fact-check? Get in touch.

Contact us