An Italian court on Monday cleared acclaimed writer Erri De Luca of inciting criminal damage by saying a controversial French-Italian rail link through the Alps should be sabotaged.
A judge in the northern city of Turin delivered a not guilty verdict in a case that had become a cause celebre for anti-globalisation campaigners and test of the legal limits of artistic freedom.
De Luca was accused of encouraging vandalism in 2013 interview comments in which he described sabotage of the rail link as "legitimate" and "just", with the prosecution arguing that his international fame made it likely that his stance would encourage militants to act.
Prosecutors had asked for an eight-month prison term for the 65-year-old writer if found guilty.
De Luca was prosecuted at the instigation of LTF, the Franco-Italian consortium building the multi-billion-euro link from Lyon in France to Turin in northwestern Italy.
Italian authorities later joined the prosecution.
The writer's defence was that the verb "to sabotage" has several possible meanings, not all of them amounting to physical action.
"I am defending the origin of the word sabotage in its most effective and broadest sense," he said in final remarks Monday.
"I am ready to be given a criminal conviction for using it, but not to allow my Italian language to be censured or diminished."
De Luca claimed he has been hung out to dry by "an article of law which dates back to the fascist period" which had never been applied to a writer before.
"I am the first, but I must also be the last," he said last week.
A petition calling for his case to be thrown was been signed by over 500 artists from 20 countries, including British film director Ken Loach, Italian jazz trumpeter Paolo Fresu, German author Brigitte Glaser and French actress Isabelle Huppert.
Opponents of the rail link say it will wreck the pristine Val di Susa on the Italian side of the Alps and potentially release toxic asbestos particles into the environment.
The project has also been criticised as a misuse of public funds, by France's public spending watchdog as well as environmentalists.
The two governments are strongly committed to the 26 billion euros ($29 million) scheme, which is expected to be finished by 2030.
De Luca is a life-long radical whose literary tales centred on his home city 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 best-known literary prizes, the Femina.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2015-10-19