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Two Italians Accused Of Stealing Documents From NATO Base

February 27, 1986

COMISO, Sicily (AP) _ Two Italians were arrested on charges of stealing documents from the NATO base here, police said Wednesday. Italian newspapers quoted officials as saying the suspects were working with a Libyan agent.

Newspaper accounts said the two men were arrested Tuesday by police in coordination with the Italian secret services on suspicion of espionage.

Italian military police in nearby Catania confirmed the arrests of Giuseppe Franchi, an official working for the Italian military aeronautical sector at the base, and Paolo Riggio, a private television station operator.

Police said they were charged with ″the continuous theft of documents and with the diffusion of news on the activities of the NATO base of Comiso.″

The police officials refused to comment on any other aspect of the case, as did officials from the Italian minisries of defense and the interior.

Officials with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization told The Associated Press it was ″premature″ to comment and referred inquiries to the Italian Defense Ministry.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said, ″It’s all speculation at this point.″

The daily newspaper La Stampa of Turin, quoting unidentified sources within the secret service, said Italian authorities had foiled what was supposed to be a ″drop″ of information from the Comiso base to a Libyan agent.

The newspaper accounts varied on whether the purported Libyan agent was arrested or whether he managed to escape.

No one at the Libyan embassy in Rome would comment.

Libyan leader Col. Moammar Khadafy has long insisted that the Comiso base is ″a nest of spies″ and has urged Sicilians to get rid of it. U.S. cruise missiles are kept at the base.

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