Civil Liberties

'Gratuitous Insults Must Be Punished'


A prosecutor is threatening Italian comedian Sabina Guzzanti with a five-year prison term for telling a joke about Pope Benedict XVI in Hell, "tormented by great big poofter devils," at an anti-government rally in July. According to the London Times, Rome prosecutor Giovanni Ferrara claims Guzzanti violated the Mussolini-era Lateran Treaty between Italy and the Vatican, which "stipulates that an insult to the Pope carries the same penalty as an insult to the Italian President." (I gather that Italians also can go to prison for insulting their president, currently a former senator named Giorgio Napolitano.) Ferrara has to get permission from the Ministry of Justice for the prosecution, which Guzzanti's father, a member of Parliament, called "a return to the Middle Ages." One of his colleagues, Christian Democrat Luca Volonte, either disagrees or pines for the days of the Inquisiton, saying "gratuitous insults must be punished." The pope, meanwhile, already has forgiven Guzzanti, or so a Jesuit scholar speculates.

[via The Freedom Files]