Milan - A Milan appeals court on Monday cut jail sentences on 11 people who claim to be part of the radical left-wing Red Brigades even as concern builds in Italy about the possibility of a return to 1970s-style political violence.

The appeals court upheld an earlier conviction that the 11belonged to an armed band and subversive group, but struck down a charge that they were terrorists, a move which cut their jail terms by between one and three years.

The defendants have regularly said that they do not recognise the “bourgeois” court that was judging them.

“The only justice is that of the proletariat!” chanted the defendants' families and members of the public when the president of a three-judge panel read the verdict.

The jail terms imposed on Monday ranged from two years and four months to 11 years and six months.

The original convictions were over accusations of a plot to kill or harm labour law specialist Pietro Ichino, and commit other attacks. President Giorgio Napolitano warned last week that Italy risked reliving the political violence that scarred it four decades ago after a recent shooting and bombing.

A turbulent social climate has developed in Italy as a severe recession, rising unemployment, and government austerity measures begin to weigh on households.

A tax collection agency was targeted by letter bombs late last year, and continues to receive threats.

Earlier this month, shooters claiming to be part of a violent anarchist group wounded a nuclear industry executive, Roberto Adinolfi, in Genoa. A bombing in front of a southern Italian school nine days ago killed a 16-year-old girl.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The Red Brigades, whose aim was to spark a Marxist-Leninist revolution, carried out numerous attacks and killings in the 1970s, including the kidnapping and murder of former Christian Democrat Prime Minister Aldo Moro in 1978.

The group has been revived several times, and murdered government labour adviser Marco Biagi in 2002.

Those convicted on Monday claim to be the contemporary incarnation of the movement, which is referred to as the New Red Brigades.

Two letters sent to the Italian media last week and signed by the Brigades suggest the group, in some form, is still active.

The first letter denied having planted the school bomb in Brindisi, while the second hailed the shooting of Adinolfi and called for new violence.

“The dawn of the new revolution is here,” read the second letter, sent to Il Giornale newspaper in Milan, which is owned by the brother of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The second letter, received on Friday, echoed a statement made two weeks ago by Alfredo Davanzo, one of the defendants convicted on Monday who often acted as a spokesman for the New Red Brigades during the trial.

Commenting on the attack against Adinolfi, who was shot in the leg and survived, Davanzo said the time was right for “armed struggle” and “revolution” to defeat “the catastrophe of capitalism”. - Reuters