Italian writer Erri De Luca cleared in historic sabotage case
Turin, Italy (AFP) – Renowned Italian writer and environmental activist Erri De Luca was cleared Monday of inciting criminal damage by saying that a controversial rail link through the Alps must be sabotaged.
Judge Immacolata Iadeluca’s not guilty verdict sparked wild celebrations in the Turin courtroom where De Luca had been tried.
“An injustice has been averted,” the 65-year-old said moments after the verdict, calling the charges against him “an attempt to sabotage my freedom of speech.”
The veteran left activist added: “Today what I would like to sabotage is the passivity of the Italians: we have become used to corruption being a fact, to the newspapers not reporting the facts. . We need acts of resistance. “
De Luca’s case had been seen both as a famous cause for anti-globalization activists who defend direct action tactics as morally justified when the environment is threatened, and as a test of the legal limits of artistic freedom.
The writer had been accused of promoting vandalism in 2013 interview comments in which he described the sabotage of the rail link as “legitimate” and “fair,” with the prosecution claiming his international fame made it likely that his position would encourage activists to act.
In announcing the verdict, Judge Iadeluca said the crime of incitement had not been committed.
She did not immediately explain the basis for her verdict, but De Luca’s defense focused on two points: that it was not possible to show a causal link between her remarks and acts of vandalism and that the verb “sabotage” had several nuanced meanings, not all of them implying physical acts.
De Luca had said he was prepared to go to jail to make his point. Prosecutors had requested eight months in prison.
In particular, the novelist opposed being tried under “an article of law dating back to the fascist period” which had never been applied to a writer before.
A petition calling for her case to be dismissed has been signed by more than 500 artists from 20 countries, including British director Ken Loach, Italian jazz trumpeter Paolo Fresu, German author Brigitte Glaser and French actress Isabelle Huppert.
– A radical for life –
De Luca was sued at the instigation of LTF, the Franco-Italian consortium building the multibillion-euro link from Lyon in France to Turin in northwest Italy.
The Italian authorities then joined the prosecution.
In his last plea in court on Monday morning, the writer said “sabotaging” has several possible meanings, not all of which amount to physical action.
“I defend the origin of the word sabotage in its most effective and broadest sense,” he said.
“I am ready to receive a criminal conviction for using it, but not to allow my Italian language to be censored or diminished.”
He also reiterated the feelings that got him in trouble in the first place, saying the section of the line crossing the pristine Val di Susa on the Italian side of the Alps should be “restrained, hampered, therefore sabotaged in the la health, soil, air and water of a threatened community. “
In addition to being attacked by environmentalists, the rail link has been criticized as an embezzlement of public funds by France’s public expenditure watchdog.
Both governments are, however, strongly committed to the € 26 billion ($ 29 million) project, which is expected to be completed by 2030.
De Luca is a longtime radical whose literary tales centered on his hometown of Naples have been translated into English, French, German, Spanish and a number of other languages.
He is best known for “Montedidio” (2001, translated into English as “God’s Mountain” in 2002) which won one of France’s most famous literary prizes, the Femina.