Sunday, May 15, 2011

Amanda Knox Prosecutor Continues Abuse of Power to Silence His Critics


As support continues to build for Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, as they fight for their freedom in Perugia Italy, the controversial prosecutor that secured their convictions continues to abuse his power in attempt to silence their support. Prosecutor Guiliano Mignini was the lead prosecutor in the Meredith Kercher murder trial in Perugia Italy, ending in guilty verdicts for Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in late 2009. The trial was highly controversial leaving many throughout the world to believe that Amanda Knox and Rafaele Sollecito have been wrongfully convicted. The appeal for both is currently ongoing.

Last month, The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent, nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending the rights of journalists worldwide, released an open letter to Italy's President, Giorgio Napolitano, highlighting their concern with the conduct of Giuliano Mignini during the Meredith Kercher trial. CPJ reports that the anti-press actions of Mignini and those under his supervision has caused the press to shy away from reporting on the Meredith Kercher case including the ongoing appeal trail for Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. The open letter highlights the abuse of freelance reporter Frank Sfarzo, who has been very critical of the case on his blog Perugia Shock.

You can read more about the open letter, Mignini's conduct, and the harassment of Frank Sfarzo here:

Guiliano Mignini has shown that he has not been swayed by CPJ's concerns regarding his past and present behavior, by continuing to press forward with a defamation lawsuit against Perugia Shock, a blog created and maintained by Frank Sfarzo. Mignini has repeatedly threatened legal action in attempt to silence those who disagree with him. Bowing to pressure, Google recently took Frank's blog offline. 

Investigative reporter Frank Sfarzo, creator of Perugia Shock, June 2009. Photo by Candace Dempsey

In a recent interview, Sfarzo told CPJ that he received an email from Google, which hosts the Perugia Shock blog, informing him that a court order has been issued for the “preventive closure” of his blog. It was from that court order that Sfarzo learned that Perugia Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini has filed a lawsuit against Perugia Shock for “defamation, carried out by means of a website.” The court order was issued on February 23, by Florentine Judge Paola Belsino.

Frank Sfarzo's reporting must not be silenced. Injustice in Perugia has frequently backed up the Perugia Shock blog because we have long feared that it would become a target of Mignini. Perugia Shock will be back online in its entirety very soon. You can view the new blog here:

Frank Sfarzo is the only reporter that has attended every single court hearing for Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, and the only Italian reporter providing information to an English speaking audience. Perugia Shock has provided invaluable first hand information about this case for over three years. Frank Sfarzo's voice must not be allowed to be silenced by a corrupt prosecutor hell-bent on destroying anyone who dares to disagree with him. Enough is enough!

The Committee to Protect Journalists was appalled to see Mignini's latest abuse of power and was quick to respond:

"The Committee to Protect Journalists authorities calls on Florence and Perugia to drop the trumped-up defamation lawsuit against Perugia Shock, an English-language blog created and maintained by Frank Sfarzo, an Italian freelance journalist and blogger. Sfarzo has endured sustained harassment in retaliation for his reporting and commentary on the official investigation into the November 2007 murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher."

“We call on Perugia Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini to drop his defamation lawsuit against Perugia Shock and allow it to remain online,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “This is hardly the first time Mignini has resorted to the law to silence his critics. It’s a heavy-handed tactic that is bound to have a chilling effect on journalists in Italy .” 

This story has been a hot topic on blogs that follow the Amanda Knox case. You would think that other bloggers would come to Frank Sfarzo's defense, in light of the fact that his blog was taken offline, as this is clearly a matter of free speech. Instead the anti-Amanda Knox groups run by New Jersey resident, Peter Quennell and Seattle resident, Peggy Ganong have taken this opportunity to attack Frank Sfarzo and CPJ. The true intentions of these groups have been crystal clear in their reaction to this story. Peggy Ganong speaks adamantly about free speech when others post on her website, Perugia Murder File, yet she has failed to stand up and state that it's wrong to silence Frank Sfarzo. Excuses are being made on her website that Perugia Shock contained defamatory information so the censorship was warranted. This is a baseless claim but one that is quite interesting coming from Peggy Ganong whose website often posts defamatory information about credible writers and journalists such as Douglas Preston and Candace Dempsey. 

Peter Quennell has used his website, True Justice, to attack the CPJ, an organization that works tirelessly to protect journalists throughout the world. Quennell mocks CPJ's Joel Simon accusing him of hiding and pushing out another "naive" spokesperson. Why should CPJ respond to Quennell's baseless attacks and why on earth would Joel Simon feel the need to hide from Peter Quennell? Who does Quennell think he is? In his most recent rant, Quennell refers to Joel Simon as "Joel Fisher," Maybe Quennell will come up with another ridiculous theory that Joel and I are working with Frank Sfarzo and Giuliano Mignini to promote the grand conspiracy that is brewing in Quennell's head.

Quennell's website has posted many falsehoods regarding this developing story, including the falsehood that Frank Sfarzo is an "anonymous Perugian blogger." Quennell's description of Sfarzo makes absolutely no sense due to the fact that Sfarzo is well known in Perugia. Quennell even shows Sfarzo on his website photographed standing next to Giuliano Mignini. The "anonymous" tag comes from the fact that Frank Sfarzo uses a pen name on his blog. Peggy Ganong had this to say on her website: "My guess is that Frank Sfarzo hopes to get some sort of career mileage out of this. If he held himself to real journalistic standards and reported under his own name, things might be different."  Is it possible that Peter Quennell and Peggy Ganong honestly feel that using a pen name is justification for being pressured into silence by the authorities?

Quennell suggests on his website that Sfarzo created this entire drama to bring attention to himself: "NO WAY that site would be going live if a judge in Florence had said to shut it down. Or if Frank’s legal troubles were because of it. Or if Mignini really were gunning for him. It looks like all the Google Blogger hullaballoo yesterday was to simply set CPJ up for another anti-Mignini attack, and to add to Frank’s martyrdom and jump his usually very small audience."

Does Peter Quennell believe that CPJ is in on his dreamt up grand conspiracy? Does he believe that Giuliano Mignini is in on it too? Of course Quennell's theory is complete nonsense. If Quennell took thirty seconds to do some research he would quickly find out that Frank Sfarzo is not the one posting the new Perugia Shock blog and he would also see that the court order against Frank Sfarzo is very real and currently viewable online. You can view the court order here:

If Quennell's egregious accusation that Sfarzo pulled off a publicity stunt, and was never actually harassed, wasn't enough, Quennell also accused Frank of being sexually attracted to Amanda Knox: "Frank. Up to mid 2008 Frank was humanely pro Meredith and sensibly pro guilt. Then he turned on a dime and developed a noticeable lust for Knox." 

When is Quennell going to realize that everything in life does not revolve around sex? I would think Quennell's recent shortcomings would cause him to refrain from this type of speech. I guess it's true that old dogs never learn.

The attacks coming from Quennell and Ganong against Frank Sfarzo are very telling. I would ask anyone who looks to their websites for information on the Amanda Knox case to ask themselves, what kind of person would condone the harassment of a journalist or a blogger, no matter what side of this debate he or she stands on?

Frank Sfarzo deserves the support of anyone who believes in the right to free speech. Those currently fighting so hard against him need to stop and think about what they are actually fighting for.