Without doubt Italy is one of the greatest travel destinations in the world. For religious pilgrims is is the heartland of Catholicism; for history buffs the ancient Roman empire comes to life; students find time spent here an exemplary education.
For some, however, it can be a nightmare.
Normally this column will avoid any foray into politics–domestic or international. The only exception to that rule is when a warning must be issued for the safety of travelers to any locale.
Unfortunately, Italy is such a locale.
Most people in the United States followed the case of Washington State coed Amanda Knox and her Italian boyfriend, Rafaelle Sollecito, accused of the grisly murder of Meredith Kercher.
After serving nearly four years on the charge, all the while protesting that she was innocent, appeals filed by the two were upheld and they were acquitted of the murder charge.
Unfortunately prosecutors protested from the get-go and continued to go after the youngsters. They finally won out in having the acquittal over turned and the charges reinstated. While it is highly unlikely that Knox wil ever return to Italy, much less face the charges, Sollecito is still in that jurisdiction.
Many Americans immediately began to demand to know why she was charged again and was not totally freed under the judicial concept of “double jeopardy” which states that once acquitted you cannot face the same charges again. True. But that is American law and not Italian jurisprudence.
This opens quite a can of worms for Americans considering a visit to Italy. Should you be involved in an incident that requires you to face a court in Italy, what are your rights? They are simply the same as anyone else in Italy and that is a far cry from the Constitutional rights you enjoy in the United States.
Knox’s parents went deep into debt, both selling their homes in order to travel to Italy and to provide legal representation for their daughter.
The Italian prosecutors, not content with sending the young couple to prison, attempted to charge Amanda’s parents with libel for their comments about the prosecution. This was an obvious attempt and effort to shut them up.
Forensic evidence was finally admitted into the proceedings and it was based on this that the two were finally freed.
That wasn’t enough for the prosecution. The prosecutors were embarrassed and had to save face. How to do that? Demand that the acquittal be overturned and Knox and Sollecito be tried again for the murder.
Petty. Vindictive. Pure nastiness. Those are some of the kinder terms that could be associated with the prosecution and what appears to pass for justice in Italy. The person who appears to have been the true murderer, a man from the Ivory Coast in Africa, was sentenced to 16 years and should soon be free and clear while Knox and Sollecito are branded as killers.
American tourists are not always as clean and decent as they should be when visiting another country. If they commit an offense, they should be required to pay for it. But the specter of proving your innocence and then having a vindictive prosecutor appeal and have your verdict overturned is something that hangs over the head of every visitor to Italy.
That places virtually every tourist to the country in a position of danger.
Italy, for the most part, is a warm and welcoming country. Tourism makes up a tremendous part of its national product. Most countries are well aware of the dollars that American visitors bring in an support everything from small shops and souvenir stands to upscale hotels and restaurants.
Perhaps if Americans chose another destination for one year the point would be made. Prosecute…don’t persecute.
Until that judicial system realizes that defendants in criminal cases must be treated fairly and not subjected to the whim of a prosecutor whose feelings have been hurt, dollars might better…and more wisely and safely…spent elsewhere.