Peter Popham: A chance to redeem Italian justice

Rome Notebook: When he gives his verdict, Judge Paolo Micheli has the opportunity to redeem the reputation of Italian justice somewhat

Monday 27 October 2008 01:00 GMT

If the prosecutors in the Meredith Kercher murder case had wanted to give the world a demonstration of what is wrong with Italian justice, they could hardly have done a better job.

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have been in jail since last November. They have yet to be charged. What is the case against them? Prosecutors say they were involved in a sex orgy with Meredith that went wrong; when Mez tried to pull out, they forced her to continue and finally slashed her throat three times and choked her. The evidence? Household tiffs between Amanda and Meredith in the flat they shared. Amanda supposedly invited undesirable men back to the house. Raffaele wrote in his diary that he sought "extreme experiences" (he had apparently been a virgin till meeting Amanda a fortnight before.) Yet the girls cohabited well enough. They spent the afternoon before the murder together in the flat. Raffaele cooked lunch, Amanda strummed her guitar and sang. Mez gave Amanda a fake tattoo she was still wearing when she went to jail.

After allegedly killing their friend, did they flee? Not at all. Next morning they called the police, and hung around to give statements. In the absence of other suspects, prosecutors accused them of murder with an African friend. Unfortunately for the prosecutors, Patrick Lumumba had never even set foot in Mez's flat and eventually they had to let him go. Two weeks after the murder, scientists found bloody fingerprints on a cushion under Mez's body which belonged to a drug dealer and serial house-breaker called Rudy Guede, who had gone on the run right after the murder. The crime, it seemed, was solved – but prosecutors clung to their original theorem, merely substituting one African for another.

When he gives his verdict, Judge Paolo Micheli has the opportunity to redeem the reputation of Italian justice somewhat. Though if he sends Guede to jail for life and frees the other two, the cries of "racist" and "American dupe" will doubtless be raucous.

Onward march – slowly

The secret of Carlo Petrini's success is his restless ambition. Two hundred thousand people are expected to visit Slow Food's Salone del Gusto in Turin this year and 5,000 farmers from all over the world are attending the Terra Madre event to which it is umbilically tied. Yet Slow Food's founder is still hungry for more. "When I started Slow Food, kind people slapped me on the back and said, 'You've found a brilliant niche,' " he said on Saturday. "But a niche is the last thing we want to be. Quality food should be a universal right."

A million times no

Six months after his election, Silvio Berlusconi has never looked more assured, his opponents never less relevant. So a million protesters against his Government in Rome on Saturday was a useful reminder that 40 per cent of Italians voted against him.

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