Prospero Gallinari, who as a member of the Italian terrorist group the Red Brigades was convicted in the kidnapping and assassination in 1978 of Aldo Moro, the Italian prime minister, died Monday after collapsing at his home in Reggio Emilia, in northern Italy. He was 62. He was long believed to have been the gunman in the killing until a comrade took responsibility.
Mr. Gallinari had a history of heart trouble, Italian newspapers said, citing police reports confirming his death.
The Red Brigades, a vicious and idiosyncratic Marxist-Leninist paramilitary organization, engaged in robberies, assaults and assassinations in the 1970s as part of a campaign to foment leftist revolution in Italy. The group's most notorious act was kidnapping Mr. Moro in March 1978. It held him for 55 days and then shot him to death. Mr. Moro's body was found in a car trunk on May 9, 1978, the same day he was murdered.
Mr. Gallinari was convicted of killing the prime minister with a pistol shot followed by a burst of fire from a submachine gun. He accepted responsibility for the killing as a member of the Red Brigades, but in 1993 Mario Moretti, a higher-ranking member of the group, said that he, not Mr. Gallinari, was in fact the killer. "I would not have allowed anyone else to do it," Mr. Moretti said in a jailhouse interview.
Another group member, Adriana Faranda, was also quoted as saying that Mr. Gallinari was not the killer. He had even said goodbye to Mr. Moro and cried, she said, according to ANSA, the Italian news agency.
Prospero Gallinari was born in Reggio Emilia on Jan. 1, 1951. His parents were sharecroppers. His devotion to leftist causes began when he was 9, he said, after he attended a funeral for people killed in clashes between landowners and the police. At a young age he joined the Communist youth federation and remained with it until the late 1960s.
He then joined the Superclan, an ultrasecret leftist group (the name stands for "super clandestine") that specialized in armed robberies. He became a full member of the Red Brigades around 1973. Modeling itself after urban guerrilla groups in Latin America, the Brigades hoped to destabilize Italy through sabotage, bank robberies, kidnappings and murder. Its members were known to cripple people by shooting them in the kneecaps.
In 1974, Mr. Gallinari participated in the abduction and mock trial of Mario Sossi, a prosecutor. Convicted of the kidnapping, Mr. Gallinari escaped from a prison in Treviso in 1976. Two years later, on a Rome street, he was one of four armed terrorists who jumped out of bushes, automatic pistols blazing, to capture Mr. Moro. They killed his five guards.
In September 1979, Mr. Gallinari was arrested while changing license plates on a stolen car, apparently in preparation for a terrorist action. Four years later, he and 31 other members of the Red Brigades were sentenced to life in prison for the Moro kidnapping and murder and other crimes.
In a statement to the court, Mr. Gallinari said the terrorists had engineered the kidnapping to shatter an emerging alliance between Mr. Moro's conservatives and the Communists. The Brigades saw the deal as a sellout by the Communists. The group had hoped to exchange Mr. Moro for imprisoned terrorists, but the government refused to negotiate.
In 1987, Mr. Gallinari and four others from the Red Brigades were caught trying to dig a tunnel to escape prison. Using just spoons and sticks, they had gone nearly 20 yards. Mr. Gallinari was released in 1996 because of his heart disease, and had been on probation ever since.
Mr. Gallinari later helped write a scene for a play about the kidnapping that opened in 1998 at a theater in Parma, Italy. In 2006, he published an autobiography, "A Farmer in the Metropolis." Information on survivors was not available.
The Italian authorities decimated the Red Brigades in the 1980s, partly by offering prisoners earlier release in return for testimony against their comrades.world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.