What is "terrorism" depends on target -Italy judge

By Emilio Parodi

MILAN, April 21 (Reuters)
- Militants who attack military or state targets, even with suicide bombers, cannot be considered terrorists in times of war or occupation, an Italian judge said in a ruling released on Thursday.

Judge Clementina Forleo outraged Italian authorities earlier this year by dropping charges against suspected Islamic militants accused of helping to recruit suicide bombers for Iraq -- saying the alleged crimes amounted to foreign guerrilla activity, which is not illegal in Italy.

But the reasoning behind her ruling was only released on Thursday.

Besides a lack of evidence linking them to an international terrorism network, alone enough to clear the defendants, Forleo ruled the alleged crimes could not be considered "terrorist" under conventional international doctrine.

"The dividing line between guerrilla activity and terrorism is drawn almost unanimously from international doctrine," she wrote in the 69-page document.

"The differentiating factor ... does not appear to be the instrument used (to attack), but the target in one's sights," she said, adding that "terrorists" attack indiscriminately instead of distinguishing between civilian and military targets.

Foreign guerrilla activity, not a crime in an Italian court, instead targets "a foreign occupying army or against a state structure held by the combatants as illegitimate."

She also warned that defining "every violent act" by irregular forces as terrorist risked "comprising people's right to self-determination and independence".

Her January ruling was seen as a legal defeat for the Italian government which has sent more than 3,000 troops to Iraq and has tried, in coordination with the United States, to step up anti-terrorism policing at home.

Earlier this year, Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli called Forleo's decision "stomach turning" and Communications Minister Maurizio Gasparri said she was "extremely wrong".

She is suing then for defamation.

Justice Minister Roberto Castelli opened a disciplinary investigation into Forleo for possible negligence. 

Copyright: Reuters

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