Italy's Grillo handed four-month sentence over rail protest

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 03, 2014 9:50 AM

TURIN, Italy (Reuters) - An Italian court sentenced Beppe Grillo, leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, to four months in prison on Monday for entering part of a sealed-off construction site during a protest against a high-speed train line in 2010.

The incident occurred when Grillo and other protesters defied police orders not to enter a mountain hut built on land considered part of the site reserved for construction of a high-speed train line between Lyon in France and Turin in northern Italy.

"I will not give in, your solidarity is a great help to me," Grillo tweeted to sympathizers after the ruling.

The sentence will not take effect until he has exhausted the appeals process but its severity drew strong condemnation from supporters of the comedian-turned-politician, who was not in court to hear the sentence.

"I think it shows very clearly what kind of a witch hunt we're facing," Alberto Perino, an anti high-speed train protester who was sentenced alongside Grillo, told reporters outside the court in Turin.

Protests against the train link in northern Italy have been strongly backed by the 5-Star Movement and have become a focus for wider discontent with the political system, with periodic clashes between demonstrators and police.

(Reporting by Gianni Montani; Editing by Angus MacSwan)