With a sentence that was published on October 27, the Second Civil Section of the Court of Reggio Calabria, defining the judgment that had been promoted by Agostino Cordova against the Grand Orient of Italy of Palazzo Giustiniani, rejected the request made by the former Chief Prosecutor condemning him to pay the costs of the proceedings in favour of the Goi.
This is a very important measure for the Order, given that the ordinary Justice has considered legitimate the criticism that defined as a “witch hunt” the investigation made in Palmi by the Prosecutor Cordova, culminated in July 2000 with its dismissing in Rome.
“Dear Brethren, this sentence makes us rejoice – said Grand Master Stefano Bisi – because it renders justice also to the many Brethren who, in those distant but for all of us painful years ’92 and ’93, found themselves persecuted and suffered a police night search as a result of that investigation. It is for this reason that we feel a particular joy, today, in front of the sentence that unequivocally writes the excesses of the inquiry by Cordova and gives satisfaction to the Grand Orient of Italy of Palazzo Giustiniani, even if it will never heal and cancel the damage suffered by so many of our dear Brethren fed to public opinion as criminals.
Here is in detail the reconstruction of the judicial story that led to the sentence in favour of G.O.I., that was defended by the lawyers Raffaele D’Ottavio and Fabio Federico:
The judicial case originates from the initiative of the Grand Master, Stefano Bisi, aimed at obtaining the restitution of the imposing amount of documents seized from the GOI, back in 1992, after the initiative of the Chief Prosecutor Agostino Cordova as part of the well-known investigation against Freemasonry.
In particular, the newspaper Il Dubbio reported what stated by Grand Master Stefano Bisi during his public address on the occasion of the Grand Lodge of 2017, when he communicated about the acceptance of the application and the start of the restitution of the seized acts. Il Dubbio published an extensive article in which, recalling the decree of dismissal, it was severely criticized the modus operandi that had characterized that well-known judicial investigation.
We read, in fact, in the aforementioned judgement: “The accusations made (ed. by Agostino Cordova) do not appear to be founded because the article under judgment starts from a recent fact, namely the return of the first files seized during the investigation on Freemasonry, to retrace the progress of the aforementioned investigation certainly using critical tones that are also taken up by the measure of closure of the investigation issued by the Court of Rome in 2001”.
The many severe and harsh expressions used in the aforementioned press article do not allow their full transcription in this brief report. Please refer, therefore, to the attached article for a more precise and exhaustive representation, being able to report below only some of those considered by the former Prosecutor as defamatory
:”(ed. Cordova) nicknamed the “Minotaur” saw in Naples the capital of Evil!”…, ” the hunt for the Freemason began in 1992”…,.”the Examining Judge who closed the investigation called it devoid of elements of crime and illegitimate”…; “Those seized were folders full of stories, faces and names put to the pillory in a witch hunt that ended in a fail and waste of time”… “… according to Bisi the Freemasons were persecuted, pointed out, treated as mafia; that Córdoba, from his office in Palmi, had tried in every way, only to then pass the ball to Rome, for territorial competence”…; “over the years ‘those documents have remained in the hands of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, without anyone bothering to erase the mark of infamy printed in large letters on the identity card of each of the Freemasons who ended up under the magnifying glass'”…; “according to the Examining Judge, the investigations on the secret associations often resulted in a pile of dust (a phrase never used by the Examining Judge), ending up being cognitive and, as such, should be carefully avoided”…, “And Article 330 of the Code of Criminal Procedure had been interpreted as the power of the P.M. and the Judicial Police to acquire news and not, as it should be, elements of crime”;… “as he saw in the Freemasons at all costs monsters” ;…”Almost 30 years later those monsters are gone, but that the witch hunt is never over.”
Agostino Cordova therefore sued in court the Grand Orient of Italy asserting that: “said article reported the statements made by the Grand Master of the G.O.I. Stefano Bisi on 7/4/17 in the speech made in the Grand Lodge of Rimini, according to which Cordova would have put the Freemasons to the pillory” and asking that the responsibility for aggravated defamation be ascertained and thus pronounced the relative sentence to compensation for damages.
The Grand Orient of Italy of Palazzo Giustiniani was constituted in court, in the person of the Grand Master Stefano Bisi, to resist the question on the assumption that these expressions, although certainly harsh, severe and strong, fell, in any case, within the exercise of the legitimate right to report – critical, as respectful of the truth of the facts, of the expressive continence and fully responding to the public interest of exact knowledge of known judicial facts
The superior deductions were assisted by copious documentation consisting of judicial, parliamentary and Superior Council of Judiciary documents as well as excerpts from well-known best sellers and other contemporary publications.
In particular, it was shown that those harsh and strong expressions directed against the well-known investigation against the GOI, found, indeed, full correspondence, first of all, in the reasons technically expressed in the decree of dismisal and secondly in the previous and subsequent historical facts that had confirmed its accuracy.
The Judge, expressing full adherence to the defensive theses of the G.O.I., ruled that: “The general criticism that emerges from the article certainly expresses itself with strong tones but without ever reporting unreal facts or in any case aspects of the investigation never faced before by public opinion, taking into account the large number of journalistic articles that have mentioned this judicial initiative and the great media echo that had also resulted from parliamentary questions and the institution of a parliamentary committee of inquiry”.
The G.O.I. has punctually argued that criticism can make use of severe and harsh slang expressions as long as they respect the truth of the facts, that is, in this case, respectful of the reasons for the dismissal; so that the concept legally expressed in the aforementioned decree of dismissal, according to which in that investigation were sought and collected mere news and not elements of crime, as provided for by art. 330 of the penal code, can be well expressed in criticism with the expression “witch hunt” or other similar common use contained in the article of Il Dubbio.
The Civil Judge, on this point, ruled that: “in the present case, it should be noted that the reference to the judicial measures that are cited in the article in question are, as mentioned, always punctual and never the phrases used, although characterized by journalistic jargon (as in the case of ‘passing the ball’ with reference to the transfer of competences to Rome or ‘witch hunt’) end up alluding to illegitimate behavior put in place by the Prosecutor Cordova… … it should be noted, in fact, that in some parts of the article certainly the criticism of the investigation that concerned Freemasonry is more harsh, as where we talk about the mark of infamy, but these statements are not addressed directly to the person of dr. Cordova but in general to the investigation itself and to the conclusions it has reached”.
In conclusion, the Judge ruled that: “from the analysis carried out so far it is clear that there is no reported defamation as the content of the article is globally truthful, albeit with some irrelevant inaccuracy, the language used is never inconvenient, offensive or heavily allusive and, finally, the news reported and the overall reconstruction of the judicial affair is certainly of public interest taking into account the resonance already had in the past by the investigation initiated by the Prosecutor Cordova”.
Having been pronounced the defeat of the former Chief Prosecutor Agostino Cordova, he was sentenced to the costs in favour of the Grand Orient of Italy of Palazzo Giustiniani.