Italy appeals court upholds libel verdict against dead man

Highest court fails to register defendant’s death in libel

Italy appeals court upholds libel verdict against dead man

(ANSA) – Rome, November 7 – Italy’s Court of Cassation, the country’s highest appeals court, Wednesday upheld a guilty verdict against a politician from the Sicilian town of Campobello di Licata, accused by a local political rival of libel. But there was one problem with the case: the defendant, Calogero Gueli, a former mayor, has been dead for over a year. Evidently the result of a bureaucratic error, the verdict upheld a prior lower court’s verdict that Gueli smeared a local politician’s reputation when, during an interview, he accused his rival, Giuseppe Sferrazza, a local official of the Communist Party (PCI), of using lawsuits as a weapon to silence his local rivals, much as Sferrazza’s father was accused of using a gun to silence local opponents. Years before, Sferrazza’s father had been sentenced to 70 years in prison for mafia-related crimes. Gueli himself had been previously connected to organized crime activities. In 2006, Gueli was arrested for aiding and abetting organized crime activities and sentenced in the first degree to three years and four months. He was subsequently absolved.

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