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Legal charges against Vatican Radio revived by high court July 17, 2003

A lawsuit against Vatican Radio will be allowed to proceed, after Italy's highest court overturned a lower court's ruling in favor of the Vatican broadcaster.

The charges against Vatican Radio and its directors, which had been dismissed by a lower court, will now be heard at a trial scheduled to begin on October 23. The charges were sparked by the fact that Vatican Radio broadcasts exceeded the tight new Italian standards for electromagnetic emissions. The lawsuit against the broadcaster also names Cardinal Roberto Tucci, the president of the executive committee for Vatican Radio; Father Pasquale Borgomeo, the station's director general; and Costantino Pacifici, the broadcaster's technical director.

Vatican Radio had answered the original charges by raising two arguments. First, the station pointed out that there has never been scientific evidence to suggest that electromagnetic emissions are harmful to human health-- the charge that is the basis for the proceedings against the station. Second, Vatican Radio insisted that the Italian government does not have authority to proceed against the broadcaster, since it is an arm of the Holy See, which has broad immunity from Italian laws under the Lateran accords. The lower court had accepted that latter argument; the high court disagreed.

Vatican Radio will now be called in court to answer the charges brought by residents of the Santa Maria di Galeria neighborhood where the main broadcast facility is located.

While the lawsuit against Vatican Radio has been proceeding through the appeals process, the broadcaster has reached an agreement with Italian authorities regarding the station's broadcasts. On May 9 of this year, a bilateral commission of representatives from the Italian government and the Holy See announced that the Vatican Radio broadcasts are now fully compliant with the new national guidelines.

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