Vatican radio back in the dock

BBC, Apr. 10, 2003
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/2937031.stm

Vatican Radio has denied allegations that its transmitters have been putting lives at risk in a Rome suburb by violating restrictions on electromagnetic emissions.

On Wednesday, Italy’s Supreme Court ruled that three officials from the broadcaster would have to stand trial over the charges.

In doing so, the top court overturned a lower court’s ruling a year ago saying that, under the 1929 Lateran Treaty – establishing the Vatican as an independent state – Italy had no jurisdiction over the three officials.

Vatican says charge unfounded

Fr Federico Lombardi, Vatican Radio’s programming director, said the station had always borne in mind the international recommendations for protecting people from electromagnetic waves.

The station’s response had been constructive, he said in a statement broadcast on Vatican Radio.

“Vatican Radio hopes that a new trial will finally dispel unjustified and unfounded allegations against it and that its activity can continue with serenity”, he said.

He added that the station wanted a “responsible and appropriate relationship” with people in the surrounding areas – once they had been reassured there were no threats to their health.

He was referring to allegations that there are higher number of cases of leukaemia in Santa Maria di Galeria, the Rome suburb where the controversial antennae are based.

Prosecutor welcomes new trial

But the court’s decision was greeted with enthusiasm by the Italian public prosecutor in charge of the inquiry.

Today, I am proud to be a magistrate.

Italian Prosecutor Gianfranco Amendola

“I could have not received a better birthday present. The judges of the supreme court have cancelled a sad page in this country’s judicial history.

“Their ruling has established that the Italian state is not subjected to any other country or entity,” Deputy Public Prosecutor Gianfranco Amendola said.

“Today, I am proud to be a magistrate,” he added.

The case began two years ago, when former Environment Minister Willer Bordon from the Greens, embarked on a campaign against the radio’s antennae, and threatened to have Vatican Radio’s electricity supplies cut off if it did not reduce the emissions.

The former minister was endorsing a campaign by residents in the area, who felt their health was at risk.

Mr Bordon’s mandate expired soon after the controversy erupted: Italy held general elections in May 2001 and the centre-left government he was part of was replaced by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative coalition.

The row has remained dormant – until now.

BBC Monitoring , based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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