Outrage after Berlusconi media shadow 'turquoise socks' judge

An Italian television channel owned by Silvio Berlusconi has shadowed and secretly filmed a judge who ruled against the prime minister's family holding in a bribery case, describing him as "eccentric" for wearing turquoise socks.


REUTERS - Italian magistrates and the opposition are up in arms after a television channel owned by Silvio Berlusconi shadowed and secretly filmed a judge who ruled against the prime minister in a bribery case.

Days after Judge Raimondo Mesiano ordered Berlusconi's holding company to pay 750 million euros in damages to a rival, the media mogul's Canale 5 channel aired a video of the judge taking a walk, smoking and getting a shave at the barber.

Dubbing the judge's behaviour "eccentric", a narrator points to him smoking the "umpteenth" cigarette, calls his turquoise socks "strange" and says: "He's impatient ... he can only relax at the barber's".

The incident has further raised tensions between the Italian government and the judiciary, after Berlusconi accused the constitutional court of being packed with leftists when it stripped him of immunity from prosecution.

The court's action means that cases for fraud and corruption linked to Berlusconi's Mediaset business empire can proceed.

Furious that the judge was shadowed during his leisure time without his knowledge, the National Association of Magistrates asked the privacy authorities to intervene. The authorities said they were evaluating the matter.

"We don't think there are similar precedents in Italy, of denigrating a person and delegitimising an essential and delicate function," the association said in a statement.

Coupled with anger over Berlusconi's remark on Friday that he wanted to modify the constitution on judicial issues, the magistrates' union on Saturday declared a "state of protest".

It also denounced a "climate of constant tension" that it said risked altering the balance among the powers of the state.

Mediaset, which owns Canale 5, responded angrily, saying it would not accept reprimands and that the clip showed a magistrate who "objectively has acquired national and international notoriety".

Some magistrates are debating a "turquoise socks" protest, while others have been collecting signatures for a letter of support for their colleague, Italian media reported.

Some Italian commentators and the centre-left opposition were also outraged, with one Democratic Party senator likening the incident to a "horrible television movie".

"The worst thing -- which gives you the shivers -- is the shadowing, the spying, the violation of privacy, the public pillorying, with the implied warning: look, we're watching you," wrote Michele Brambilla in La Stampa newspaper on Saturday.

"We've already seen this several times, here or there. But that the judge (who imposed) an unwelcome sentence -- and perhaps wrongly, that's not the point -- could be followed and filmed secretly, is something we've seen only in the movies."

Mesiano ruled this month that Berlusconi's Fininvest holding company, which owns 38.6 percent of Mediaset, must compensate CIR for bribing a judge in a 1990s battle to buy publisher Mondadori.

The company has called the ruling a blow, putting a major hole in its financial resources and risking its development.



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