ROME (AP) — Florence prosecutors on Friday were investigating allegations by two U.S. students that they were raped by Carabinieri policemen who escorted them home in a patrol car from a nightclub, allegations the U.S. State Department said it was taking very seriously.
Italian authorities said the 21-year-old students were questioned by prosecutors for several hours a day earlier about their allegations. The women accused the officers of raping them early Thursday morning in their apartment building. The police officers were reportedly waiting to be questioned. The Carabinieri are a corps of paramilitary police.
Italian media say three patrol cars went to a nightclub to investigate a fight. Two cars left after calm was restored, but the third remained. The women, who reportedly spent the evening in the nightclub, told authorities that the officers drove them to their apartment building and raped them.
News reports described witnesses as confirming they saw the women enter the patrol car.
A State Department official indicated the department was aware of the media reports that the two students were assaulted by police in Italy and that such allegations are taken seriously.
The U.S. Embassy in Rome, when asked about the investigation, sent an email saying: “Due to the sensitive nature of this case and to protect the privacy of those involved, we have no further comment.”
The U.S. consul general in Florence met for about an hour with Florence’s police chief Friday morning about the case, the Italian news agency ANSA said.
The women were described as having arrived in Florence several months ago to study the Italian language at an Italian institute.
Florence, with its many museums and churches full with Renaissance masterpieces, is an in-demand destination for many Americans, and a year or a few months of study in the city at U.S. university programs or at Italian institutions is very popular.
One heavily followed crime case involved the murder of American woman Ashley Olsen in her flat in January 2016. Later that year, a court in Florence convicted a Senegalese man of murdering the 35-year-old and sentenced him to 30 years in prison. An autopsy had determined that she had been strangled and suffered skull fractures. Witnesses had said the woman and her attacker had met at a Florence night club a few hours before she was killed.