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CRIME

Italian man cleared of stealing aubergine, nine years on

An Italian man has finally been acquitted of stealing an aubergine nine years after first being charged, ending a legal wrangle over a piece of fruit worth pennies that cost taxpayers thousands.

Italian man cleared of stealing aubergine, nine years on
After a long legal battle, an Italian man has been acquitted of stealing an aubergine. Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP

The man, then aged 49, had the incriminating aubergine in his bucket when police caught him trying to escape through a privately owned field near Lecce, in the southern region of Puglia, in 2009.

While being taken away, he pleaded with the police that he had tried to steal the nightshade because he was unemployed and desperate to feed his child.

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However, the courts initially showed no mercy, sentencing him to five months in prison and ordering him to pay a €500 fine. That punishment was reduced on appeal to two months' jail and €120.

The man's legal counsel was still not satisfied and took the case to the Court of Cassation in Rome, Italy's highest appeals court, where the defendant was acquitted nearly a decade after he was first arrested.

The Court of Cassation criticized the lower courts in Lecce for not taking into account the extreme weakness of the prosecution's case given the man's financial situation.

La Repubblica newspaper quoted the ruling as saying that the man “was definitely acting to satisfy the hunger of his family… there are grounds for justification [of the theft]”.

The court also lamented the amount of public money spent on the case, with €7,000-8,000 going towards legal fees as the man was too poor to pay for his own defence, La Repubblica reported.

CRIME

Italy remembers murdered anti-mafia judge Falcone

Italy commemorated the death of Italian judge Giovanni Falcone on Monday, thirty years after the brutal Capaci bombing.

Italy remembers murdered anti-mafia judge Falcone

The entire country paid tribute on Monday to anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, killed by the Sicilian mafia 30 years ago in a car bomb murder that shocked the country.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese laid a wreath at the memorial at the site of the blast at Capaci, near Palermo, that killed Falcone, his wife, and three members of his police escort on May 23rd 1992.

Another ceremony in Palermo was attended by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, whose brother Piersanti, then Sicily’s regional president, was also murdered by the mafia.

In a statement, Prime Minister Mario Draghi hailed the legacy of Falcone, saying that thanks to his “courage, professionalism and determination, Italy has become a freer and fairer country”.

He said Falcone and his colleagues – one of whom, Paolo Borsellino, was killed by Cosa Nostra two months later – “dealt decisive blows against the mafia”.

“Their heroism had rooted anti-mafia values in society, in new generations, in republican institutions,” he added, saying the “relentless fight against organised crime and […] the search for truth” must continue.

The mob used a skateboard to place a 500-kilogramme (1100-pound) charge of TNT and ammonium nitrate in a tunnel under the motorway which linked the airport to the centre of Palermo.

Falcone, driving a white Fiat Croma, was returning from Rome for the weekend. At a look-out point on the hill above, a mobster nicknamed “The Pig” pressed the remote control button as the judge’s three-car convoy passed.

The blast ripped through the asphalt, shredding bodies and metal, and flinging the lead car several hundred metres.

READ ALSO: How murdered judge Giovanni Falcone shaped Italy’s fight against the mafia

On July 19th, Borsellino was also killed in a car bomb attack, along with five members of his escort. Only his driver survived.

Falcone posed a real threat to Cosa Nostra, an organised crime group made famous by The Godfather trilogy, and which boasted access to the highest levels of Italian power.

He and Borsellino were later credited with revolutionising the understanding of the mafia, working closely with the first informants and compiling evidence for a groundbreaking ‘maxi-trial’ in which hundreds of mobsters were convicted in 1987.

“Thanks to Falcone and Borsellino, the Sicilian mafia became a notorious fact, not something that had to be proved to exist at every trial,” anti-mafia prosecutor Marzia Sabella told AFP.

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