A trial pitting Italy's far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni against writer Roberto Saviano started in Rome. It follows an outburst two years ago by Saviano over Meloni's stance on migrants.
Italian author Roberto Saviano has gone on trial in Rome on Tuesday for calling Italy's new prime minister Giorgia Meloni a "bastard."
Saviano, best known for his anti-mafia book Gomorrah, faces up to three years in prison if convicted.
He made the offending remark in 2020 on a television talk show when he was asked for a comment on the death of a 6-month-old baby from Guinea.
The baby boy, Joseph, was among 111 migrants rescued by the Open Arms charity ship, but died before he could receive medical attention.
Meloni, who became Italy's first female prime minister last month and is leading its most right-wing government since the war, responded with legal action against the "serial hater" Saviano.
On Tuesday, Meloni's lawyer Luca Libra said she might consider dropping the lawsuit, as she has been urged to do so by the PEN International writers' association.
The case was postponed to 12 December.
Matteo Salvini joins the fray
In 2020, Saviano lambasted Meloni and fellow right-wing leader Matteo Salvini over their anti-migrant rhetoric.
"All I can say is: bastards, how could you? Meloni, Salvini: bastards."
Meloni said in 2019 that charity vessels which rescue migrants "should be sunk," while Salvini, as interior minister at the time, blocked such vessels from docking.
Salvini, now deputy prime minister, joined the criminal proceedings on Tuesday as a civil party seeking damages.
Saviano said that he had used the term "bastards" to highlight the damage done by Meloni and Salvini's "lies" about charity rescuers.
"Letting people drown isn't a political opinion. It's not a political opinion to discredit rescue ambulances, it is infamy, and above all it's inhuman."
The author, who often clashes with right-wing politicians, said he faced two more defamation cases, one from Salvini and another from Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano.
lo/fb (AFP, EFE, Reuters)