'Firm' response assured by Italy after American women allege rape by policemen

The probe into the alleged rape of two American women by members of Italy's paramilitary police corps continued this week, as the policemen were questioned, DNA testing in the case advanced, and a top Italian official promised a "firm" response.

The American women, who were studying in Florence, say that two policeman in Italy's Carabinieri force raped them after driving them home in the city early Thursday morning.

Prosecutors said on Monday they were awaiting test results for DNA samples taken from the landing and the elevator in the apartment building where the women lived, where the assaults are alleged to have taken place.

Italian media is reporting that one policeman was questioned by investigators in recent days, and he reportedly told prosecutors he had sex with one of the women. His lawyer told reporters that her client maintained the sex was consensual, and the woman was not drunk.

Italian news agency Ansa reported that the second policeman was questioned for about two hours on Tuesday by prosecutors in Florence. The policeman spoke to the prosecutor voluntarily, before being summoned, according to the report. The prosecutor's office would not confirm the details of this report to ABC News.

The Carabinieri said the two policemen were suspended last week pending the outcome of the probe. Neither has been officially identified by authorities, nor have they been charged.

"It is an extremely serious case, just thinking of these girls and thinking that whoever did this was wearing a uniform that usually signifies security and closeness to citizens," Italy's Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said Tuesday. "We will follow the work of the prosecutors but we will be firm."

The two women were renting an apartment in the upscale center of Florence. The uniformed officers were reportedly called to a Florence nightclub called Flo, near the city's Piazza Michelangelo, to calm a brawl in the disco. This is where they met the women before driving them home and allegedly assaulting them.

Gabriele Zanodini, a lawyer for one of the women, told ABC News today that, under Italian law, what happened clearly would prompt a rape investigation. Under Italian law, prosecutors have six months -- which can be extended -- to carry out their preliminary investigation before deciding on charges. Details of the investigation cannot legally be made public until charges are made and a trial is conducted.

Italian media is reporting that the women were 19 and 21 years old. ABC News does not typically report the name of victims of potential sexual assault, and under Italian law, the names may not be made public.

Zanodini said his client's family "should arrive soon" in Italy, and that the family of the other woman had already arrived. ABC News was not able to reach the other woman's lawyer.

Italian Police Chief Franco Gabrielli said Monday that "individual cases should be judged extremely firmly, with extreme severity."

"Fortunately we have strong and solid institutions that will surely experience these situations with great pain and unhappiness," Gabrielli said, "but this will not remotely affect the history of the Carabinieri paramilitary police corps that has, for more than 200 years, guaranteed legality, and the respect for the rules, and laws of our country."

A former prime minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi, called the case "a blood-curdling use of the uniform." Renzi, who is also a former mayor of Florence, said, "What happened in Florence is of an unprecedented gravity."

ABC News's Phoebe Natanson in Rome and The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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