Sallusti, editor-in-chief of the Milan-based daily, was in home confinement after being convicted of criminal defamation in connection with a 2007 article published in another newspaper, which he was editing at the time, according to news reports.
The defamation charge stems from an article, written under the pseudonym “Dreyfus” and published in February 2007 in the right-wing daily Libero. The author suggested that a juvenile court magistrate should be subjected to the death penalty for allowing a 13-year-old girl the right to an abortion. The magistrate filed a defamation complaint and a Milan court ruled in June 2011 that Sallusti, as editor of Libero at the time, bore responsibility for publication of the article. The Milan court’s guilty verdict was upheld by the Fifth Chamber of the Cassation Court in September 2012. Sallusti was sentenced to a 14-month term.
The article was criticized at the time of publication as being excessive and containing factual errors, but the conviction sent shock waves throughout Italian journalism. The left-wing La Repubblica, a paper that would normally disagree with Libero, published an opinion piece stating that jailing journalists for libel “is disproportionate” and represents “a sinister intimidation” to the press.
Renato Farina, a member of parliament and the deputy editor of Libero at the time of the story’s publication, said in September 2012 that he had written the piece and took responsibility for it, the U.K.’s Telegraph reported.
On December 1, 2012, police in Rome said they re-arrested Sallusti after he violated the terms of his house detention, Reuters reported. Sallusti said he intentionally violated the terms of his home confinement to call attention to the verdict and its dangerous implications for press freedom, Reuters said. Returned to house arrest, Sallusti faced new charges of evading custody, according to the news agency.
Italy is one of the few countries in the European Union where defamation remains a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment. Facing domestic and international calls to decriminalize defamation, the Italian parliament debated possible changes to the 1930s-era law in fall 2012 only to leave the statute intact.