Turin: Italian writer Erri de Luca invoked Gandhi Tuesday as he began his trial defence against charges of inciting criminal damage to a controversial high-speed rail link through the Alps.
At the heart of the case are statements made by De Luca, 64, in interviews in which he described as legitimate attempts to "sabotage" a project that has become a focus for anti-globalisation protesters.
"The verb 'to sabotage' is a noble one. Gandhi himself used it," De Luca told reporters gathered for the opening day of a trial that resulted from a complaint made by LTF, the Franco-German consortium building the multi-billion-euro link from Lyon in France to Turin in northwestern Italy.
Italian authorities later joined the prosecution of the writer over the content of two 2013 interviews in which he was quoted as saying the rail link "should be sabotaged" and that he thought "it is just to sabotage it".
De Luca has said he will go to prison rather than appeal if he is found guilty, framing his prosecution as one which threatens freedom of expression.
"Show me the people that I incited to (carry out) sabotage," he said.
The opening of the trial came a day after another Italian court sentenced 47 opponents of the rail link to prison terms averaging nearly three years each in connection with violent clashes with security forces in 2011.
De Luca described those sentences, which were deemed unexpectedly heavy by most of the Italian media, as "a political punishment".
Six people accused of being among the masked demonstrators involved in the pitched battle were acquitted. The convicted will not go to jail pending appeals.
In an interview with AFP earlier this week, De Luca argued that no judge had the right to define what a writer meant by his use of any word.
It was not clear what point he was trying to make by invoking Gandhi. The Indian independence leader regularly discussed using sabotage in the struggle against British rule but, in line with his non-violent approach, did not regard it as a legitimate tactic.