Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Italy's High Court Acquits Judge Who Refuses To Sit In Courtroom With Cross

ANSA reported yesterday that Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation has reversed the conviction of Judge Luigi Tosti who had been sentenced by a lower court to seven months in jail for refusing to carry out his official duties. (See prior posting.) The sentence came after the Supreme Council of Magistrates removed Tosti from his position and cut off his pay for unjustifiable behavior. (See prior posting.) Tosti, who is Jewish, had refused to sit in his Camerino courtroom where-- as is customary in Italy-- a cross is displayed. Tosti argued that defendants have a right to be tried in a secular courtroom, and that lawyers and judges can refuse to serve in courtrooms that would deny defendants a fair trial. The high court-- after conducting Tosti's hearing without a cross in the courtroom-- apparently agreed with Tosti's church-state argument. It acquitted him, holding that he had not committed a crime. This however does not mean that crosses will be removed from Italian courts. In late 2004, the Constitutional Court held that crosses could remain in classrooms and courts. Earlier that year Tosti had threatened to protest the practice by displaying a menorah in his court, but changed his mind when the Union of Italian Muslims began to demonstrate support for his proposal.