Rome

'Capacity for delinquency' behind Sallusti libel sentence

Editor sentenced to 14 months for defaming judge

'Capacity for delinquency' behind Sallusti libel sentence

Rome, October 23 - The Supreme Court of Cassation on Tuesday said the ''pronounced capacity for delinquency'' shown by journalist Alessandro Sallusti was behind its decision to uphold an earlier libel conviction and sentence him to 14 months in jail. In September Italy's highest appeal court confirmed the verdict handed down to Sallusti by a Milan court in 2011 for printing libellous remarks made by an anonymous reader about Italian judge Giuseppe Cocilovo in 'Libero', the right-wing paper he edited in 2007. The comments concerned the decision by Cocilovo to grant a 13-year-old the right to have an abortion. ''If there were the death penalty, and if it were ever applicable in a situation, this would be the case. For the parents, the gynecologist and the judge,'' wrote the anonymous reader, who used the pseudonym 'Dreyfus'. The Court of Cassation ruled that Sallusti was responsible for the comment since the identity of the writer was unknown. Renato Farina, the former deputy editor of 'Libero' and now a deputy in ex Premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party, subsequently admitted to penning the libellous remarks. ''The trial documents paint a strongly negative picture of the methods'' employed by Sallusti in his ''multiple transgressive behaviour'' to the detriment not just of Cocilovo but also of a minor and her adoptive parents, who had been ''slapped on the front page,'' the judges wrote in their sentence. The court decision has aroused freedom-of-expression protests from Italian journalists of all leanings and prompted Justice Minister Paola Severino and President Giorgio Napolitano to agree to amending Italy's libel laws in accordance with EU standards. The changes would remove jail terms as possible sanctions but raise fines - a move that has prompted Italian journalists to voice concern that they would still be unduly deterred.

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