Date registered: Jan 2005
Vehicle: 2006 ML350
Location: Chicago, IL
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ROME (Reuters) - Calling a foreigner a "dirty negro" in Italian is not necessarily a racist insult, Italy's highest court has ruled.
The verdict, relating to a case where a group of Italian men punched and insulted some women from Colombia, caused deep unease at a time when Italy is struggling to contain racism.
The court on Monday ruled in favor of one of the men, who argued he was not being racist when he launched the assault with the words: "Sporche negre -- cosa ci fanno queste negre qua?" ("Dirty negroes -- what are these negroes doing here?")
Most Italians would have no doubt that calling someone a "dirty negro" was a racist insult. The term is seldom heard and is considered no more acceptable in Italy than it would be in Britain or the United States.
However, an insult should be judged racist "only if it is motivated by real hatred," or is likely to cause racial hatred in others or lead to "discriminatory behavior for reasons of race, ethnicity, nationality or religion," the court ruled.
On the other hand, the crime of racism is not constituted by expressions of "generic dislike, intolerance or rejection based on race, ethnicity or religion," which appeared to fit the case in question, the court said.
Politicians across the political spectrum criticized the ruling and said it could not have come at a worse time.
RACIST SOCCER CHANTS
Soccer matches around Italy began late on Sunday as players unfurled banners saying "No To Racism" in response to an episode on November 27 when Marc Zoro, Ivory Coast defender for Messina in Serie A, the top division, threatened to walk off the pitch because of racist chants from Inter Milan fans.
"This judicial interpretation is astonishing," said Green Party lawmaker Paolo Cento.
Luigi Bobbio, of the conservative National Alliance party, said the verdict was the result of "a subtle poison (that) has seeped into our jurisprudence: originality at all costs."
The supreme court is no stranger to controversial judgments.
In recent years it has ruled that "an isolated and impulsive" pat on a woman's bottom at work did not constitute sexual harassment, and returned a verdict that a woman could not have been raped because she was wearing skin-tight jeans.
Carlo Fucci, the vice president of Italy's national association of magistrates, warned that the court's ruling "could blunt the weapons that can be used against racism."
As part of the campaign against racism, all but one of the parties on Milan's city council this week appealed to the mayor to grant Zoro Milan's most prestigious award, a golden statue of its patron saint, Ambrogio.
The populist Northern League party, which is often accused of racism, dissociated itself from the appeal.
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