Tragic end for Italian 'slave-driver'

May 28, 2004

Rome

A professor at Messina University under house arrest while police investigated allegations that he "enslaved" doctoral students, has apparently committed suicide.

Elio Fanara, 64, a professor of maritime law, fell from the fourth-floor balcony of his apartment block the day after he was suspended by the university.

The investigation that led to Professor Fanara's arrest began two years ago after formal complaints by three doctoral students.

Police accumulated evidence through telephone taps and testimonies.

Allegations included forcing students to carry out menial tasks and sexually assaulting female students and a university employee.

As well as being an authority on maritime law, Professor Fanara was vice-president of the company that will coordinate a project to build a bridge linking Sicily to the Italian mainland.

One student said: "We were treated as slaves, good for fetching and carrying, spending months making photocopies of Russian grammar."

Students complained they had to make yoghurt and bottle limoncello for the professor and change his wardrobe according to the season.

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