Fourth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns - Brussels, Belgium 1992
TRIAL AGAINST ITALIAN WAR TAX RESISTERS
VERBANIA 4th JUNE 1991
VIDEO AND SUMMARY
NOVEMBER 5-8, 1992
Mr. Sacco, you are allowed to answer or not. Would you like to answer?
Of Course. First of all, I do agree with what my two friends said before. I'm making this gesture not only for the same reasons they explained, but furthermore I believe that, as I am a priest, I must witness my faith in the Gospels. Therefore I share and I have done this for several years.
To answer your question asking whether I acknowledge having instigated to disobey fiscal public order laws, I'm convinced that everyone's target, the citizen's and the law's and even more for a Christian, is the common welfare. This has to be seen in a global frame and should be the reference point for every kind of evaluation. We could say a really ordered order on global level. In short we have a globaldisorder...
Often I bring to my village's young people this example: If we should share the wealth and people of the world having a value of 100 people and 100 sandwiches, nowadays we can see 20 people waking up and taking away 80 sandwiches. This is the rate of goods usage all over the world. 86 people have to share the remains of 20 sandwiches.
So I believe to be clear enough in explaining that this is not an order ruling the world but a disorder.
And weapons are not, according to me, just one of several trading items as coffee, cloths or copper, but they support, and all military culture as well, thisdisordered orderas a consequence I think it is necessary, in the name of my faith as well, in the name of that our Father in which we prayyour kingdom come, this kingdom which should already begin with nowadays history and which according to faith, will materialize later on.
I believe that this new world, lot us call it so, in more civilized terms, must become real now. My duty as a Christian, as a priest, is to announce how we need a new order. We can build the peace in several ways even with this gesture which is one of several not the only one. We don't believe that just for making this gesture the whole world will work in order, not just by this but also by this witness gesture.
First of all everyone making this tree choice will pay personally: by volunteer payment, and because the official governments' forms, he will pay tines, delays interests and distraint and auction of personal belongings.
Therefore this is also a personal and economical way of paying; More over I believe today fiscal tax evasion is more a disorder issue whereas the proposal of this gesture means to ask all citizen to be above all correct and honest to words the State from the beginning, just because nobody will start this action if he is not perfectly in order with his taxes. As a consequence this gesture favours, according to me, from this point of view a good relationship with the state. Anyone who exposes himself to the Tax office or the VAT office (or to whoever may come to check) must be above all an honest citizen.
And I believe that by having relations with honest citizen the Government has only to gain.
Later on the State can discuss and say,I'll give your money back (as President Cossiga did) or I'll confiscate your goodsAlso from this point of view it is a substantial step towards a serious relationship, not a step to stroke the State. Certainly in name of my faith I dream a new world, a better world which to mention an old moviegood morningmeanshave a good dayactually. A world which cannot certainly proceed on the weapon's way. In conclusion this gesture of conscientious objection fits into this logic.
4th JUNE 1991
VERBANIA LAW COURT
TRIAL AGAINST PIERGIORGIO BORSOTTI, BEPPE REBAUDO, Father RENATO SACCO
FOR HAVING DURING A PUBLIC DEBATE, INSTIGATED THOSE PRESENT TO DISOBEY TAX LAWS, INVITING THEM NOT TO PAY PART OF TAX DUE. IN VILLADOSSOLA 15th MAY 1987
The public prosecutor states that even if the accused did not invite those present not to pay taxes, the presence in the meeting hall of leaflets containing precise instructions on how not to pay taxes destined for military expenditure, is in fact an instigation to violate a public order law. It is true that the Court of Cassation has stated several times that tax laws are not public order laws but there is a recent sentence of the Court of Cassation (1989) that distinguishes between ideal public order (and in this sense tax laws are not public order laws) and real public order (in this sense tax laws are public order laws). To conclude the public prosecutor asks the judges if they recognise the existence of the offence of instigation, to bear in mind when inflicting punishment (given that there is not absolute homogeneity in the Court of Cassation sentences) the particular moral motives that led the accused to act in that way. The Counsel for the defence points out the paradoxical fact that the court has put on trial people who have honestly declared all their income in a country where most citizens try to evade taxes.
Father Renato Sacco's counsel for the defence is perplexed about the public prosecutor's statement that expressing one's opinion in public is instigation and refers to the article 21 of the Constitution
everyone has the right to truly state his opinion through speech, writing and any other means of diffusion.
Printed material must not be subject to authorisation or censorship ...
This article is a cornerstone not only of democracy but also of western civilization. The Counsel for the defence distinguishes between expressing one's thoughts, propaganda, apologia and instigation in order to clearly point out the boundary between what is right (expressing one's thoughts, propaganda) and what is wrong (apologia, instigation). The Court of Cassation sentence (1968) examines and solves this problem once and for all.
expressing one's thoughts
because the speaker not only expresses his thoughts but also exalts facts and people in order to influence those present compelling them to act illegally or diminishing the difficulty in acting so.
Moreover it is specified that by instigation one must mean:
open incitement, for whatever reason, by inculcating motives of impulse or by destroying and weakening preexisting inhibitions to commit generally illicit actions. At this point the Counsel for the Defence asks himself how these people, including a priest, could have been accused of instigation simply because they expressed their convictions and faith in public.
Even a statement of 1962 by a Military Court says that for the crime or instigation (a generic invitation) is not enough, (the leaflets left in the meeting hail by the accused can be said to have contained a generic invitation) but that it is necessary to
clearly show who is being instigated the criminal action that has to be carried out.
The Counsel for the Defence, who has taken part in all the trials (21) against war tax resisters, reminds the court that there are many sentences on this point about freedom of speech, sentences which must be borne in mind because the conclusions reached by the courts (thanks to war tax resisters) have increased democracy In Italy.
He refers to sentence n. 83 (1969) by the Constitutional Court which states that
the freedom of propaganda is an expression of the freedom to manifest thought guaranteed by the Italian Constitution in article 21, a cornerstone or the democratic system... and that propaganda is assured to the limit beyond which it damages the democratic system. To become illegitimate propaganda must in some way attack the states foundations. The counsel for the Defence asks himself how the Procurator General who incriminated the accused could have found in their talk and possible invitation to be a war tax restate, (during the meeting) such details to make him speak of instigation, that is something which ends endangers the democratic system.
In conclusion the Counsel for the Defence invites the Procurator General, if he wants to be consistent, to incriminate for instigation the editor in chief responsible for the guide on how to be a war tax resister, the various associations who promoted the civil disobedience campaign, and the religious authorities who are in favour of war tax resistance or who have even practiced it: Monsignor Bellomi of Trieste, Monsignor Bettazzi of Ivrea, and Monsignor Chiavacci of Florence). The Counsel for the Defence then instanced another very important sentence issued by the Court of Rome concerning MP Pannella who was trialed for instigation to disobey the call to arms. He was incriminated for the following phrase
when the Fatherland calls we will answer no sir, the court stated very important things...
the right to manifest thought cannot be understood correctly if the judge remains tied to an authoritarian and absolutist concept of the State, a concept that was surpassed by the Constitutional Legislator who had the intention of reasserting democratic legality as opposed to authoritarianism; the respect of minorities and pluralism as opposed to political, economic, juridical and institutional absolutism.
The Court thus recognised that freedom of opinion guaranteed by the Constitution is essential for any truly democratic system. It is in fact the freedom to manifest thought that assures, through political, economic, juridical and institutional debate, the survival of the democratic method that the community becomes conscious of its rights. Moreover the freedom to manifest thought is the most effective incentive to exchange and discuss ideas in a society which does not exclude but institutionalizes the possibility of change. At the end of the trial the presiding judge declared that the defendants were acquitted, as they had not committed the crime of instigation.
(The above is a summary of the Counsel for the Defence's pleading during the trial. If anyone is interested in having the video of the trial please contact the Italian group at the conference).