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Prosecutors request jail term for M5S leader Grillo

Comic told police not to protect MPs, built illegal protest hut

07 February, 18:47
Prosecutors request jail term for M5S leader Grillo (By Christopher Livesay) (ANSA) - Genoa, February 7 - The firebrand leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), Beppe Grillo, may face jail time after prosecutors on Friday unleashed a barrage of legal opposition against some of his headline-grabbing acts of defiance to civil authority. Prosecutors in Genoa said Grillo is under investigation for urging police not to protect elected officials in an open letter to law-enforcement agencies during heated, sometimes violent anti-austerity street protests in December. "I ask you not to protect these politicians any more," said the populist leader, whose Internet-based movement stormed to third place in February's general election in a huge protest vote. Genoa prosecutors said "numerous prosecutors' offices" from around Italy had opened cases after the remarks made during demonstrations by the so-called 'Pitchfork' movement, which snarled traffic and tied up commerce nationwide over several weeks.

Moments later on Friday, prosecutors in Turin requested a nine-month jail term for Grillo illegally building a hut in 2010 that became a symbol for protests against a high-speed rail line from France to Italy. The comic-turned-politician backs the 'No-Tav' campaign in the Susa Valley north of Turin, which contests the line's economic value and says it will despoil pristine landscape.

The Italian and French governments have insisted the line go ahead to speed passenger and freight traffic and boost both countries' economies. His M5S has been the focus of recent anti-government chaos in parliament, where it is the second biggest single party after the center-left Democratic Party (PD). The PD, together with the center right, has recently forged a new election law that aims to streamline government and prevent the type of gridlock that brought parliament to a grinding halt for two months last year after inconclusive elections. The law favors the two coalitions who come away from an election with the most votes, leading to a runoff. Despite its big numbers, the M5S would struggle to come in second since it refuses to ally with other parties in a bloc. It has accused the established parties of crafting the law to force the movement out of parliament. Last week it was largely responsible for pushing and shoving that broke out on the House floor, sparked in part by House Speaker Laura Boldrini using her powers to shut down an M5S filibuster. Long a target of M5S attacks, Boldrini was subjected to vulgar abuse on Grillo's Facebook page by M5S members over the weekend, some of which imagined her being raped. The M5S has also filed to impeach Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, whom it accuses of failing in his role as impartial arbiter of Italian politics and the Constitution in favor of traditional parties.