Acquitted blogger Brunetti defended by Ossigeno. “My calvary”
“I wrote the truth and was sued by the Mayor of Portovenere. Over two years of anguish and concerns”
by Daniele Brunetti – I’m a blogger, author of the blog “Partigiano Civico”, through which I have always closely followed issues related to the environment and to unauthorized buildings in my community, in the province of La Spezia. On October 20, 2014 I was sued by Matteo Cozzani, Mayor of Portovenere, a town in the province of La Spezia, on charges of aggravated defamation for having published on my blog a phrase of then former commander of the Municipal Police, Mr Pruzzo, who is still in active service.
Pruzzo had told me that the city’s practice on the implementation of a number of public car parks had been suspended by the mayor. A matter of public importance, because those parking spaces were located in an area where there are only paid parking spots and had to be made in relation to the infrastructure obligations due by the P.U.O. “Le Terrazze”, a tourist complex in Portovenere.
The mayor could have denied or even clarified if the news was not precise. Instead he sued me, arguing that it was not he who suspended the practice and that the way in which I reported the news could imply the possibility of his abuse of office.
In the trial, assisted by my lawyers, I was able to demonstrate: a) that the construction of parking lots, in fact, had suffered a setback; b) that the sentence of the former police commander reported by me was formally correct: the former commander of the police, called to testify, did not deny having said it.
I was acquitted on February 20, 2017. The court ruled that “the fact is not a crime.” Basically, because I have properly exercised the right to inform provided for in Article 21 of the Constitution. My lawyers have based the defense on the compliance with the requirements for applying the exemption of non-punishment provided for by Article 51 of the Criminal Code, in particular on the requirements of truth of the fact and of the expressive countenance as have recently been enucleated by the Supreme Court in compliance with numerous judgments of the Strasbourg Court, pursuant to art. 10 of the ECHR.
My defense, then, brought to the attention of the Court the most recent judgments of the Strasbourg Court, which in fact make freedom of expression and of thought almost unlimited in the exercise of the right to report and especially in the exercise of the right to criticize.
The trial was not easy, but I’ve dealt with it with confidence, knowing that more and better I could not have defended myself. I felt fully protected and ready to support my defense up to the last level of judegement.
This time I was right, we were right. I can testify that the Legal Assistance Office set up by Ossigeno works and works well. Thank you Valerio, thank you Andrea, thank you Ossigeno.
What I’ve felt
Being sued and to have to endure a trial for aggravated defamation based on nothing, in some ways, destroys beliefs and certainties on the right that everyone has to tell the facts. It questions the few certainties that those who provide information in the public interest hold, and try to hold.
Your certainties waver while waiting that a judge gives you a reason as, in the end, fortunately, happened to me, but after two years and four months. You know to be right. But until a judgment does not absolve you, you live with worry and anguish. I would not wish to anyone to try a similar suffering, even to my worst enemies.
We all imagine that a criminal trial for defamation should start by disputing the facts that constitute a possible violation of the rights of others, which can not arise from the fact that someone disputes the publication of truthful information of public interest, based on facts. But things are different. For example, the trial that I had to face was born from an information that was undeniable and from my request for clarifications addressed to a public administrator.
To protect myself, I had to face various difficulties. I had to change defender twice. I was even discouraged by the legal processes. I could not find experienced defenders nor could I trust a final and just solution. I had the feeling that the environmental conditions were penalizing me. I finally found what I was looking for in the assistance provided for by Ossigeno per l’Informazione, which I found out through a search on theweb. After the first contacts with lawyers Valerio Vartolo and Andrea Di Pietro, the One-Stop-Shop Legal Assistance Office by Ossigeno, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had no certainty of winning, as eventually happened, but to feel the support of experienced, competent people, capable of responding to the allegations, and with whom I have established complete harmony and trust, it have been the greatest comforts.