A court in Milan, where the publication is based, has now acquitted the editor of insulting a religious belief, aggravated by racial hatred, under article 403 of the Italian criminal code. If found guilty, Belpietro could have faced a fine of thousands of euros.
Prosecutor Piero Basilone had requested a fine of €8,300 for what he described as "a generalized insult to one and a half million people of the Islamic faith, many of them victims of acts of terrorism", according to La Stampa. The trial took place after several Muslim citizens filed complaints to Milan's public prosecutor, and a local Islamic organization, Caim, formed a civil party and requested €350,000 in compensation.
Basilone further said that Belpietro was "perfectly aware" that his words would offend Muslims, though Belpietro has said the adjective 'bastardi' only referred to the individuals responsible for the killings, and pointed out that he had written 'Islamici bastardi' (Islamic bastards) rather than 'bastardi musulmani' (bastard Muslims).
He defended the wording in an editorial at the time, writing: “Not all Muslims are terrorists and not all Catholics are peaceful. We didn't say all Muslims were terrorists: we wrote Islamic (adjective) bastards (noun) – the language is clear.”
The charges were dismissed and the court is expected to make its motivation for the ruling public within the next two weeks.
A Tweet from an Italian freelance editor condemning the headline.
At the time, the article faced widespread criticism on social media, though several people spoke out to support Belpietro. In a tweet, the Northern League president of Lombardy Roberto Maroni called the headline a "perfect summary".
The Libero daily, founded in 2000, has a print circulation of around 80,000, according to figures from June. In 2016, Belpietro left the publication and founded his own daily paper, La Verità, with a circulation of around 70,000.