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Italian wiretapping row heats up

Italian wiretapping row heats up
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The Italian press is awash with the latest in the row over plans by Silvio Berlusconi’s government to restrict judges use of wiretapping.

Amid demonstrations against the new law, which goes before the Senate next week, a top US official expressed concern that the fight against the mafia could be weakened.

Pierluigi Bersani, leader of the opposition Democratic Party, said: “The demands of the right-wing for the elimination of wiretapping abuse and the subsequent spread of it is turning out to be a ruling that damages inquiries and puts a gag on the media, which is something we haven’t seen in any democratic country.”

But the Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, said: “We’ve been leading the way in the fight against organised crime and the mafia. So anything needed to fight that, wiretaps included, won’t be touched or reduced. But it’s something completely different to spread news that should remain private.”

Under the new law, judges would only be able to order wiretaps if they had serious evidence that a crime had been committed. Critics say the law is tailor-made to stop embarrassing transcripts appearing in the papers.