Magistrates must be impartial, Defence
Minister Guido Crosetto told the Lower House on Friday in
response to a row sparked by his claim that a left-leaning
faction of the judiciary is the only real threat to Italy's
Crosetto, a member of Premier Giorgia Meloni's right-wing Brothers of Italy (FdI) party, said earlier this week that he was happy to report to parliament after drawing criticism by warning of elements within the judiciary forming "judicial opposition" to the executive in an interview published in Corriere della Sera on Sunday.
In the interview, the minister said he had "heard about meetings of a faction within the judiciary in which they talk about how to 'stop the anti-democratic drift Meloni is leading us to'".
The interview sparked an angry reaction from Italian magistrates union ANM, with its president Giuseppe Santalucia accusing Crosetto of spreading "fake news which has no foundation and hurts the institutions" and calling on him to "dispel suspicions and shadows".
Opposition parties also condemned the remarks, with ex-premier and 5-Star Movement (M5S) leader Giuseppe Conte saying they amounted to accusing part of the judiciary of being "subversive".
In his statements to the House Friday, Crosetto said that magistrates must remain "third parties".
He said: "I shall open a topic that must be discussed sooner or later: this clash between politics and the judiciary must end".
"I have found that there are some magistrates - I have heard exponents of the (centre-left) Area movement - who see in the government an attack on the judiciary, almost as if they do not want it to do its job," continued Crosetto.
"There are those who have said that the role of the judiciary must be to counterbalance the will of the people," he added, referring to remarks made by the Secretary of Magistratura Democratica, part of the Area movement, Stefano Musolino.
"But those in positions of responsibility must be impartial: imagine if a general or a prefect had uttered these words," said the minister.
Crosetto said he trusted magistrates, but that there had been "very serious interventions" on the part of some allegedly biased officials against the government.
The minister also accused his critics of "mystifying" his words by falsely claiming that he had accused the judiciary of staging secret subversive meetings, and said there had been an "execution squad" lined up against him.
He said: "There has been an attempt to mystify my words: I am going to read them again in an Italian that any primary school child would understand: 'they tell me about meetings of a faction within the judiciary in which they talk about how to 'stop the anti-democratic drift Meloni is leading us to'".
"Did I say that they tell me about secret meetings, about conspiracies? No," he concluded.
Magistratura Democratica secretary Musolino, who is also deputy prosecutor of Reggio Calabria, was quick to respond.
"I believe the minister does not know some of the fundamentals of our Constitution, and especially the role of guaranteeing the protection of fundamental rights that the Charter attributes to the judiciary, which is the reason why it is independent from other powers," he said.
"It is no coincidence that Crosetto likens us to prefects and generals, who are people that work with the government on its programmatic goals, while the function of the judiciary is to protect fundamental rights even when they are threatened by contingent majorities," added Musolino.
"Every time governments have tried to reduce and anaesthetise the function of the guarantee bodies, the rate of democracy has inevitably been lowered, as has happened in Hungary, Poland and Turkey," he continued.
"The openness to discussion in respect of respective roles is the identifying characteristic of Magistratura democratica," said Musolino, adding: "This is why we will continue to speak out on the issue of rights with institutional loyalty and without being intimidated by attempts to involve us in media brawls".
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