Berlusconi attacker found unfit for trial

Berlusconi attacker: The man who hurled a statuette at Premier Silvio Berlusconi, leaving him with a broken nose and two broken teeth, is not fit to stand trial.

By , Associated Press

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    Berlusconi attacker: The man who hurled a statuette at Premier Silvio Berlusconi, leaving him with a broken nose and two broken teeth, is not fit to stand trial.
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The man who hurled a statuette at Premier Silvio Berlusconi, leaving the bloodied Italian leader with a broken nose and two broken teeth, is not fit to stand trial, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge Luisa Savoia, however, placed Massimo Tartaglia under observation for one year in a psychiatric hospital where he has been held since February.

The ruling technically finds Tartaglia not guilty of the attack based on a psychiatric evaluation that found the defendant was not capable of knowingly or intentionally committing a crime at the time the attack took place, said defense lawyer Gian Marco Rubino.

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"It is clear that the absolution is satisfactory from a trial point of view," Rubino told The Associated Press. "As for the treatment, we are absolutely agreed, and we have always said since the day after the attack, that Massimo Tartaglia is a person who requires treatment."

A spokesman for Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party, however, called the decision "worrisome."

"Tartaglia, last December, came within a step of murdering Berlusconi," Daniele Capezzone said in a release.

The judge's decision means that Tartaglia may leave the hospital only by permission of his doctors, and he is strictly forbidden from attending any public demonstrations for a year, Rubino said. The 42-year-old Tartaglia has a history of psychological problems.

Tartaglia hurled a miniature statue of Milan's cathedral at the premier at the end of a pro-Berlusconi rally in Milan on Dec. 13. The attack left the 73-year-old premier with a broken nose and two broken teeth.

Berlusconi, who spent about a month out of public view after the attack, was traveling in South America and there was no immediate comment from the premier's office.

Television images after the attack showed the stunned leader with a bloodied face being lifted to his feet by aides and hustled into the back of a car. The premier immediately got out, apparently to show he was not badly injured, but was pulled back into the vehicle by bodyguards without saying a word.

The attack stirred public sympathy for Berlusconi at a time when he was fending off a sex scandal and legal troubles, which have been put on hold while courts test the constitutionality of a new immunity law. But Berlusconi has suffered a more recent dip in popularity due to austerity measures aimed at reducing Italy's deficit.

While media questioned why the security detail surrounding the premier did not prevent the attack, Italy's top security official Interior Minister Roberto Maroni defended the security and blamed the attack on political tensions stirred up by the premier's critics.

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