Rome, 7 October 2011
I was in the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation this morning for an appeal in Petrie v Civello and Rossi. On 29 January 2003 a Court of First Instance in Bologna awarded me damages of €19,000 for defamation. This judgment was overturned by the Bologna Appeal Court on 17 June 2008.
This morning my lawyer argued 4 points, two of which concerned formalities. One of these points was that proper legal formalities concerning the state advocate’s mandate to take the case to the appeal court had not been followed. The Advocate General supported this view and if the court follows, then the Bologna Appeal Court judgment of 17 June 2008 would be struck down.
On the merits – it was argued that although I did not say at a hearing in the European Parliament that “Italy is country of the mafia” … my speech (in English) may have been incorrectly interpreted into Italian.
It was further argued that people must have the right to free expression and to criticise. While we recognise this – this right must not be abused and must be based on facts and not falsehoods.
At the hearing in the European Parliament in Brussels I did make reference to two concrete documented cases showing how “raccomandazione” – meaning favouring one candidate’s application over another on grounds other than meritocracy worked in the context of Italian universities.
I was represented by Professor Lorenzo Picotti who deposited 13 pages of legal reasoning and was allowed ample to illustrate his points to the five judges in the Supreme Court.
I would expect to receive a judgment in a few months.
For background to the the case read on ….
1) Hearing of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee – European Parliament – 26.02.97
In Brussels, on 26 February 1997 I gave evidence to the Employment and Social Affairs Committee of the European Parliament. I was speaking in my capacity as chairman of ALLSI, (Association of Foreign Lecturers in Italy) on the longstanding dispute concerning discrimination against non-Italian foreign lecturers “lettori” working in Italian universities.
At the same hearing, the Italian state was represented by Bruno Civello, a functionary in the Italian Ministry of Education and by Adriano Rossi, a former vice-Chancellor of the Oriental University of Naples.
At the hearing I highlighted examples of how laws and practices in Italian university are used to prevent non-Italians from receiving equal treatment under EU single market rules, with regard to access to employment, mutual recognition of qualifications, salaries, maternity leave and pensions.
My speech was interrupted by Italian MEPs and chairman Stephen Hughes MEP had to intervene twice to restore order and defend my right to be heard.
2) Public meeting – Bologna 23.01.98
Subsequently, on 23 January 1998 I attended a public meeting in Bologna at which Bruno Civello was addressing an audience of around 200 lecturers and trade unionists.
At that meeting Bruno Civello alleged that Italy had been defamed in the European Parliament as “a country run by the Mafia” and that the author of the defamation was sitting in the auditorium. I protested that Mr Civello’s remarks were false and defamatory and I invited him to withdraw them. He refused, whereupon Adriano Rossi stood up and supported Civello’s accusation, adding that he too was present at the Brussels meeting of 26 February 1997.
I told them if they withdrew the false and defamatory accusation we could get on with the meeting and I would take the matter no further.
On 27 July 1998 I raised an action in Bologna against Mr Civello and Mr Rossi for defamation.
3) The Guardian tape and the (missing) European Parliament tapes
During the procedural phase of the case my lawyer wanted the court to hear “The Guardian tape” as evidence. The Italian state advocate, representing Civello and Rossi objected saying that the authenticity of the “Guardian” tape could not be guaranteed , the judge agreed and ruled that the tape was inadmissible.
On Thursday 2 December 1999 I visited the European Parliament and asked Mr Roy Perry MEP if he could supply me with an officially authenticated copy of my speech from the tape recordings held in archives of the European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee. Mr Perry’s assistant took me to the appropriate office.
I was handed a carton containing only 9 tapes – where there should have been 10.
No one could explain why the 10th tape was missing – the missing tape was the one which I recorded me speaking directly in English.
Four cassettes were “originals” – in which each speaker is recorded directly in the language he is speaking and 5 were all in French, the “interpreters” copy.
I identified tape number 2 “TECH/OP.MC8 “Situation des enseignants étrangers dans les universities italiennes” as the interpreters (in French) tape of the hearing and was supplied with an authenticated copy.
However, when we came to transcribing the ( French) interpreters version of my speech we discovered that the tape had been damaged/wiped – obliterating parts of my speech at a crucial point.
Since I had been informed that backups are made of all tapes, I asked Mr Perry to procure a copy of my original speech in English from the Parliament’s backup archives.
On 10 December 1999, Mr Perry’s assistant phoned me saying that the Employment and Social Affairs Office did not have a backup either in English or French.
No one could explain why no backup could be found.
4) The Brussels police and the recovery of the (missing) European Parliament tape.
On 4 May 2000 I lodged a complaint with the Brussels police alleging theft and damage to intellectual property. Since the tapes were not in their usual place, theft was the only plausible explanation. The fact that 2 tapes were missing and a third tape had been damaged – having been wiped in the part which was of interest to me – suggests the whole matter was orchestrated in order to prevent me from proving defamation in the case I had raised in Bologna.
Stephen Hughes MEP took the matter up with the President of the European Parliament, Madam Nicole Fontaine.
I informed the President’s lawyer Hans Kroek that I would sue the European Parliament for the value of the Bologna law suit – in the event that I am unable to recover the missing tape.
On 21 November 2000 Mr Kroeck furnished Sir Neil MacCormick MEP with an authenticated copy of the tape which was then forwarded in a sealed container to the Bologna court and was accepted in evidence.
5) Bologna Court awards damages 06.04.03 – overturned by the Court of Appeal 25.09.08.
On 6 April 2003 the Bologna tribunal decided that the acquisition of the tape removed all doubt on the factual situation and that I did not use the expressions falsely attributed to me by Mr Civello and confirmed by Mr Rossi. I was awarded €19,000 + interest in damages as well as costs of €6,520.
Mr Civello and Rossi were ordered to publish an extract of the judgment in both Corriere Della Sera and La Republica. They refused to comply with the Court’s order to publish the extract. I therefore paid for its publication and recovered the cost from them through the courts. See link http://www.allsi.org/Cor9giu04.htm