Alessandro Sallusti

But the paper is owned by the very man who”€”if we are to believe what the Italian media has been telling us all these years”€”runs this diabolical regime, isn”€™t it? A certain Silvio “€œBunga Bunga”€ Berlusconi, who has been prime minister of Italy three times and who owns nearly all of Italy’s private television channels. Something does not figure here.

But that is the point. Italy is indeed run by a diabolical regime, but Berlusconi is not its boss. He is its victim, as is his daily newspaper’s editor.

Sallusti is a rebel who champions the cause of those Italians who believe in freedom and the free market”€”of those Italians determined to rid Italy of the whole rotten crowd that has called the shots here since World War II, the crowd that fervently believes the state should run everything. It is made up of all those in Italy who worship the state and despise people. This rotten crowd includes a monstrous number of judges.

I used to think that free-market Italians such as Sallusti formed Italy’s silent majority; nowadays, I am convinced they form a doomed minority. 

I know Sallusti pretty well. In 2003, he gave me a job as a columnist for Libero, the only other national daily newspaper in Italy which champions freedom and the free market, and which he then edited. He has a genius for writing hard-hitting and extremely funny headlines. He is brilliant, not just at touching and exposing but stomping on the numerous raw nerves of the Italian left, which therefore despises him and defames him daily with impunity. But Sallusti is a relentless stickler for factual accuracy.

It was in Libero that the “criminal” article appeared on September 18, 2007. I also know the article’s previously anonymous author”€”Renata Farina”€”whose identity emerged only recently. He is godfather to one of my children.

I, too, have been condemned for criminal libel. In 2008 a judge gave me four months in jail plus a 25,000-euro fine for a 2005 opinion piece of mine just after the 7/7 al-Qaeda attacks in London which left 56 dead and more than 700 injured. My crime? My opinion that Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, two famous female Italian “€œpacifists,”€ were “€œtraitors of the West.”€ They had worked for a left-wing outfit in Iraq whose aim was (is) to form an alliance between the international left and Islam to bring down satanic capitalism. In June 2004 they were taken hostage by Islamic terrorists and after the government of their archenemy, Berlusconi, had secured their release with a huge ransom, they declined to thank him and instead praised their Islamic terrorist captors.

I did not go to prison because it was my first offense. People don”€™t normally get incarcerated in Italy if given less than two years (though it is up to the judge), but also because I appealed and the appeals judge has yet”€”as far as I know”€”to render a verdict. No doubt I”€™ll lose and then appeal again and lose. Only then, after that third trial, will my conviction and sentence become definitive (as is the way in Italy). If still alive, I shall then appeal to the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that what I wrote was not even defamatory, let alone criminally so, and that criminal libel may be fine in those medieval theocracies that left-wing pacifists admire but not in a modern democracy.

In Sallusti’s case, the judges moved with unusual swiftness to complete all three trials in an unheard-of five years. To rub salt in his wounds, they chose not to suspend the sentence even though it is for under two years. Sallusti could still have avoided prison if he had agreed to subject himself to psychoanalysis by social services and do a few months of socially useful work such as road-sweeping. But he refused because he is adamant. He will go to jail so that the world knows how shameful Italy is and to shame Italy’s politicians into abolishing criminal libel.

The Italian media, meanwhile, has been generally either disgustingly silent about the Sallusti case or else disgustingly gleeful about his jail sentence.

To spite Sallusti, and fearful of the inevitable global media storm if he ended up in jail for 14 months, the judges have now pulled out of the hat a previously unknown legal justification that enables them to compel him against his will to serve the sentence under house arrest in Milan. That is why they sent the police into the newspaper’s offices to arrest him on Saturday.

Sallusti, however, is determined not to let the judges get away with this attempt to stifle the story before it goes global, and so on Tuesday he wrote to them to say he refuses to be granted the house arrest privilege. He remains locked up at home, not yet in jail, awaiting their reply.

I salute you, Sandro: Unlike so many of your colleagues, you are a brave and principled man. But Italy urgently needs millions more like you.



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