The Italianist

Things That Happen in Italy

Posts Tagged ‘judges

Article on the Sidney Morning Herald

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The Italianist has made it into the national press – here’s my article on Berlusconi’s resignation, which appears on today’s SMH.


Written by TheItalianist

16/11/2011 at 02:20

End of a Love

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More drama on the Italian scene. This time, the drama takes place at an open debate of the PDL, The People’s Freedom, Italy’s ruling coalition led by Berlusconi. For us Italians, so used to kisses, tears, love, hugs, and the various performances of the defenders of “Love that wins over hatred and envy”, today was a bit of a shock.

Here’s what happened. There were these elections in Italy, a couple of weeks ago. Against the odds, and in spite of a quite messy build-up in the final weeks, the Right Wing, Berlusconi-led coalition, brought home a clear success over the not-so-charismatic Left-Wing opposition (see previous post).  The clearest outcome of the elections were that a) few people than ever went to vote and b) more people voted for the Northern League.

The Northern League is one of the most influential parties in Italy, with strong leaders and clear plans about reforming Italy. It is known for its commitment to protecting Italy’s culture and values, and for a perfectly rational attachments to tribal ceremonies like baptizing each other with the water of their sacred river Po. They use to refer to themselves as “colonies of Padania”, and are somewhat wary of big associations, like multi-region nations, not to mention the EU.

It turned out that the Northern League was the real winner of the Regional Elections: Berlusconi got less votes for himself, but could take advantage of the Northern League’s votes, given the latter belongs to the coalition he leads. As some have pointed out, this has had some serious effects on the Government’s next moves.

Enter Gianfranco Fini. This is Fini:

In spite of 16 (!) years of life together, he’s often showed a dissatisfaction with having to deal with Berlusconi. How could it be so? – one may wonder.

This unhappiness has increased after the regional election and the already mentioned Northern success. Fini, who leads the second more important Right-Wing group in the Government coalition, AN (National Alliance), got somewhat tired of the PDL’s supine obedience to the policies the Northern League is now pushing. Again, it is hard to accept this may be possible..

After weeks of mild reciprocal challenges, the two came to a showdown today. Fini got to talk at the PDL convention, and he raised some criticisms directly at Berlusconi. Now, it is important to specify some things:

a) no one criticises Berlusconi

b) even more importantly, no one ever criticises Berlusconi in public

c) no one ever criticises Berlusconi in front of TV cameras

Fini breached these three fundamental principles of Italian democracy, and in fact he has already been labelled a communist (according to the Italian rule that says “against Berlusconi” = against democracy = communist). He went on the stage and raised questions to the PM: mainly, he questioned the direction the PDL is taking. He highlighted contradiction between claiming to intend to defend the authority of the law and enacting some policies. He prided himself for criticising the PM openly in spite of being ridiculed by ‘certain press’ owned by PM’s relatives. He congratulates the PM as the real winner of the regional elections, yet he also asked “to be honest: now that the elections have gone, let’s say clearly that none of us believe there was a plot from the judges to deprive us of the victory, but that we just messed it up ourselves..”.

Too much, even for an ex-fascist. I’m surprised he’s still alive. Berlusconi got on the stage after him, and made it clear to him that if he wanted to make criticisms of the Government’s action, he should abandon his role of President of the Lower House of the Parliament, because he is meant to be super partes. Curiously, Berlusconi never gave similar orders to the President of the Senate, Renato Schifani.

“Our party has been exposed to public humiliation by its own members! Gianfranco, let’s talk to each other clearly! You said you are ashamed of having formed the PDL! This is the truth!!” Then he continued: “You are supposed to be super-partes, you cannot make judgments on the Government action! You cannot make these judgments if you are President of the Lower House.” Fini, from the audience, stood up and, waving his finger at Berlusconi, asked “Or what? Are you going to kick me out?”

The country is under shock. A breach in the PDL seems hard to avoid. Right-wing voters express their rage against Fini, “the traitor”, the mercenary sold to the communists. Left-wing voters struggle to acknowledge sympathy for an ex-fascist who has also shared Berlusconi’s bed for the last 16 years. Berlusconi is surely preparing one of his stylish coupe de theatre. The Northern League, in the meantime, appears unshaken by these issues.

Written by TheItalianist

22/04/2010 at 23:03

Come on Minister, Light My Fire

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The flame of democracy and freedom still burns in Italy. Against those who stay sceptical of Italy’s democratic level, today the Italian Minister Roberto Calderoli has poured fuel over the fire of liberty, a testimony of how well the Italian Government is doing.

This is Roberto Calderoli (on the left):

Calderoli plays a fundamental role in the Italian Government: he is the Minister for Legislative Simplification. His job consists in looking at the legal system and removing the ‘useless’ laws. A key function. What would happen without him? How many useless laws would Italians have to deal with, otherwise? Thank God there is Calderoli. I’m surprised no other country recognises a similar figure in their administrative body.

Clearly, not everyone can be Minister of Simplification. Calderoli has been the winner of a harsh selection, thanks to those qualities that make him stand out in the political scene. One can imagine him spending his days over the legal code, looking for the clogs in the mechanism that make the machine run less smoothly.

Today, his value was finally duly celebrated, through a solemn rite which, however, did not take place in the Parliament but  in a fire station. The ceremony consisted in the Minister burning a bunch of cardboard boxes, symbolising the 375.000 laws that allegedly the Minister has carefully and relentlessly removed from the Italian legal code. This the Minister getting ready for the service:


The attentive reader will notice that he is wielding a flame-thrower and an axe. He’s so attached to his work that he takes his tools with him always, even on official ceremonies. The boxes say “375.000 Useless Laws”. Can anyhting be more postmodern?

In pure ministerial fashion, Calderoli set the useless boxes on fire. Witness allege that Jim Morrison’s voice was heard coming from the flames:

The fire dissolved the burdens of the Italian Legal System. People clapped hands. The Gods were probably pleased.

(Pictures from

The Minister waved his thumb, reassuring the country about the safety of our legal system.

Thanks to this purifying fire, then: a fire that finally sweeps away all the little nuisances of our everyday life, about which we should stop worrying.

Written by TheItalianist

24/03/2010 at 23:59

Italian Limitations

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David Mills, a man who has been accused to have accepted bribes from the Italian Prime Minister, has been “acquitted” today by an Italian Court. Here is the story.

The Economist today published an interesting review of the Italian Prime Minister’s (and his associates’..) issues with the legal system. This can be found here, and for some it takes a long time to read it all..

The Italian PM has commented on the sentence by defining the judges “a bunch of Talibans”.


Reporting on the quashed sentence, the Italian TV news happily talk of Mills’ (hence Berlusconi’s) acquittal. A petitition has been organised on Facebook to ask the Italian TV RAI to apologize for the deceiving report.

Written by TheItalianist

26/02/2010 at 21:33

Posted in Weirditalians

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At the trial against Marcello Dell’Utri, the Mafia witness Gaspare Spatuzza has confirmed in front the judges what he had previously told the prosecutors:

“Graziano told me that we had got everything thanks to the reliability of the persons that carried out the deal. Two names were mentioned to me: that of Berlusconi and that of Dell’Utri. (…) Because of the reliability of these persons, the country had been basically put in our hands”.

Info in english can be found here, here and here.

Written by TheItalianist

04/12/2009 at 23:36

Cosa Nostra

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This blog seems obsessed with Berlusconi. It is, in fact. I would rather write about other stuff, but the actuality still puts the Italian Prime Minister under the spotlight.

Berlusconi’s reluctance to deal with the courtroom is well-known. The blog has already devoted a few posts to describing his constant attempts to avoid charges, escape questions, delegitimize judges and decriminalize a series of once-upon-a-time illegal practices. Every time the judges make some threatening sound towards the PM, they face public uproar on the media. “Giustizia a orologeria!” (“Clockwork justice!”), is the mantra that all the members of PDL repeat constantly on TV and on the press. This aims to convey the warning that the judges – being (according to the PDL) communists- are constantly plotting against Berlusconi to make him fall. In the past days, more warnings for ‘clockwork justice’ are being sent over the italian media: the judges are getting too close again. We need to stop them! This time though, there is less reason to feel simply depressed, almost bored by another episode of the soap opera Berlusconi-Law. This time, a word has been mentioned, a word that is heavier than ‘corruption’, ‘anti-constitutional’, ‘immoral’. The word is mafia.

Look at this man:

His name is Marcello Dell’Utri. As the picture shows, he’s very good at climbing the ladder. To the point that, from his humble origins in Sicily, he’s climbed up, up, up till the Parliament, where he now sits in the Senate, with the PDL. For a very telling biographical sketch of Dell’Utri, click here. In 2004, Dell’Utri was condemned to 9 years imprisonment for complicity with the Mafia. The verdict was based on the following motivations:

” The number of activities carried out by Dell’Utri, given his causal role in them, amounts to a concrete, voluntary, conscious, specific and precious contribution to the maintenance, consolidating and strengthening of Cosa Nostra, which was also offered the opportunity, still through Dell’Utri’s mediation, to get in touch with relevant economic and financial groups, thus being able to pursue its illicit ends, both the merely economic and the political ones“. (translated from Dell’Utri today is still a member of the Senate. He has appealed against the verdict.

This story starts from here. The trial against Dell’Utri is still running, and tomorrow an important witness is due to talk: the mafia boss Gaspare Spatuzza. Spatuzza is facing a life sentence for the killing of father Pino Puglisi, a priest who was preaching against the mafia. Also, he has been sentenced to life for being the material executor of the terrorist attack in Florence, on 27th May 1993, in which a whole family died and more than 40 people were injured. That happened during the years 1992-1993, when the mafia carried out a series of dramatic attacks in Italy.

On 23rd May 1992, Cosa Nostra blew up an entire chunk of a motorway, to kill the judge  Giuseppe Falcone. Look at what they did:

Two months later, 19th July, they blew up an entire street of Palermo to kill the judge Paolo Borsellino:

Both massacres happened in Sicily. In 1993 though, bombs went off in the mainland of Italy as well. One in Rome, in May; another one in Florence; a third one in Milan, in July. Why was the mafia causing all this mayhem along the country? What did they want?

It was a message to the State. After the big scandal that (temporarily..) wiped out most of Italy’s political class, the Christian Democratic Party (DC) that ruled for 50 years (see the movie Il Divo for a great portrait of Italian politics under DC rule) lost control of the country. The Mafia too lost a valid ally: at the same time, after the killing of Falcone and Borsellino, the Italian Government enacted a series of policies to block Cosa Nostra’s attacks against the institutions. One of these was the Article 41bis, a rule prescribing harsh treatment in jail for (among others) those charged with mafia crimes.

After the third 1993 attack, in Milan, another bomb failed to go off, in Rome next to the Olimpico Stadium. Had it gone off, it would have killed around 100 Carabinieri who were standing outside the stadium. The official explanation was that the bomb’s mechanism, luckily, had failed. The unofficial one was that the attack had been called off at the last minute. The ‘pact’ between Cosa Nostra and the State had been reached.

Gaspare Spatuzza has chosen to speak to the judges about those years. He has become a ‘pentito’, a state witness. Under interrogatory, he has revealed that in 1993 he was told by the Graviano brothers (the two mafia bosses whose leading role he took over after they were arrested) of the possibilities of a ‘pact’ with the State. The Gravianos first told Spatuzza to organise the attack at the Olimpico stadium. On a second meeting, in 2004, they told him that the pact with the State had been reached. “Graviano was very happy -Spatuzza told the prosecutors. He said we’ve got the full deal, and that these were serious people, not like those loser socialists (possible reference to the previous Italian PM Bettino Craxi).” Spatuzza says he was told that those “serious people” were “the one of Canale 5” (one of Berlusconi’s tv channels) and “a countryman of ours”, namely Marcello Dell’Utri. He has clearly made the names of Berlusconi and Dell’Utri as those with whom Cosa Nostra was making a deal 16 years ago.

In 2001, Berlusconi won the elections for the second time, thus becoming (for the second time) Prime Minister. In spite of his alliance with the Northern League, he received full support from Sicily’s voters. Full means full: 61 candidates were elected in 61 constituencies. 100% success. Quite remarkable.

A year later, during a football match at Palermo stadium, the following banner was exposed by a somewhat strangely quite group of football supporter:

“United against Article 41 Bis. Berlusconi forgets Sicily.”

The Article 41 bis is still in place. Mafia bosses have started talking to the judges (their natural enemy), about (and against) Berlusconi after 17 years. Are they giving up the hope for a change?

Spatuzza is due to speak tomorrow at Dell’Utri’s trial. Stay tuned.

Roberto Saviano Writes to Berlusconi

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Roberto Saviano is an italian writer who gained worldwide popularity after writing Gomorrah, a book that reveals how criminal organizations in the area around Naples (the “Camorra”) have complete control of the economic and political apparatus. The book also became a movie last year. Since the book was published, Saviano has had to live under constant police protection, since the Camorra has promised he will pay for mentioning their activities and, most of all, their names. This is Saviano’s website (many sections are in english too).

Saviano has become an icon of the fight against the dark side of Italy, that of mafia, illegality, corruption. In keeping with this fight, Saviano has written a public letter to the Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, asking him to withdraw the plans of changing the legal system by shortening the statute of limitations of the criminal trial (see previous post on this blog).

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica has launched a petition to support Saviano’s appeal. The link (in english) can be found (and signed) here.

Written by TheItalianist

23/11/2009 at 10:22