Berlusconi attacker found unfit for trial

The man who hurled a statuette at Premier Silvio Berlusconi, leaving the bloodied Italian leader with a broken nose and two broken teeth, is not fit to stand trial, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Last Updated: Jun 29, 2010, 20:42 PM IST

Milan: The man who hurled a statuette at Premier Silvio Berlusconi, leaving the bloodied Italian leader with a broken nose and two broken teeth, is not fit to stand trial, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge Luisa Savoia, however, placed Massimo Tartaglia under observation for one year in a psychiatric hospital where he has been held since February.

The ruling technically finds Tartaglia not guilty of the attack based on a psychiatric evaluation that found the defendant was not capable of knowingly or intentionally committing a crime at the time the attack took place, said defense lawyer Gian Marco Rubino.

"It is clear that the absolution is satisfactory from a trial point of view," Rubino said to a news agency. "As for the treatment, we are absolutely agreed, and we have always said since the day after the attack, that Massimo Tartaglia is a person who requires treatment."

A spokesman for Berlusconi`s People of Freedom Party, however, called the decision "worrisome."

"Tartaglia, last December, came within a step of murdering Berlusconi," Daniele Capezzone said in a release.

The judge`s decision means that Tartaglia may leave the hospital only by permission of his doctors, and he is strictly forbidden from attending any public demonstrations for a year, Rubino said. The 42-year-old Tartaglia has a history of psychological problems.

Tartaglia hurled a miniature statue of Milan`s cathedral at the premier at the end of a pro-Berlusconi rally in Milan on Dec. 13. The attack left the 73-year-old premier with a broken nose and two broken teeth.

Berlusconi, who spent about a month out of public view after the attack, was traveling in South America and there was no immediate comment from the premier`s office.

Television images after the attack showed the stunned leader with a bloodied face being lifted to his feet by aides and hustled into the back of a car. The premier immediately got out, apparently to show he was not badly injured, but was pulled back into the vehicle by bodyguards without saying a word.

The attack stirred public sympathy for Berlusconi at a time when he was fending off a sex scandal and legal troubles, which have been put on hold while courts test the constitutionality of a new immunity law. But Berlusconi has suffered a more recent dip in popularity due to austerity measures aimed at reducing Italy`s deficit.

While media questioned why the security detail surrounding the premier did not prevent the attack, Italy`s top security official Interior Minister Roberto Maroni defended the security and blamed the attack on political tensions stirred up by the premier`s critics.

Bureau Report