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Italian politico on trial in Sweden for slapping son

Published: 06 Sep 2011 15:30 GMT+02:00
Updated: 06 Sep 2011 15:30 GMT+02:00

“I held my son by the collar of his jacket and his hair for a moment,” Giovanni Colasante, 46, a local politician from Canosa di Puglia in southern Italy, told the court, according to the Expressen newspaper.

Colasante was arrested on August 23rd as he and his family were about to enter a Stockholm eatery in the city's historic Gamla Stan (Old Town) district.

They were in the Swedish capital on vacation as part of a cruise that was to take them to several Nordic countries.

But when Colasante's 12-year-old son refused to go into the restaurant, the boy's father reacted and, according to witnesses, attacked the young lad.

“He lifted his son up by the hair,” eye witness Deniz Cinkitas told the Aftonbladet newspaper following the incident.

Other guests at the restaurant called police and Colasante was placed under arrest for breaking Sweden's laws outlawing corporal punishment, putting a dent in the remainder of the family's travel plans.

While no one denies that a disagreement took place, exactly how Colasante may have treated his son remains a matter of interpretation.

“The father fought with him, absolutely and with a certain emphasis, and likely gesticulated like we usually do,” Colasante's attorney, Giovanni Patruno, told Italian daily La Stampa following the incident.

During Tuesday's proceedings in Stockholm, Colasante's wife testified in defence of her husband.

According to court testimony, the father-son dispute was sparked by a disagreement about what the family should eat, prompting the son to run off and Colasante to give chase.

While the Italian politician maintains that he never hit his son, eye witnesses told the court that Colasante grabbed the boy's hair, causing him to cry out in pain.

In denying he hit his child, Colasante also told the court that the whole ordeal has soured his Stockholm vacation and been a major strain on his family.

“The police arrested me in front of my child's eyes. This has been a three-day long nightmare as I've sat under arrest,” Colasante told the court.

The incident has gained a great deal of attention in the Italian press as many Italians try to come to grips with Swedish child rearing norms.

“Here in Italy, it's being portrayed like it wasn't anything serious, that it was just a little slap,” said Aftonbladet's Rome correspondent Åke Malm.

“Some think it's an abuse by the Swedish authorities to get involved in a simple family dispute. But many also say that it's good that there is now a serious debate about corporal punishment.”

Speaking on Italian morning talkshow, Colasante's attorney explained that Swedes and Italians obviously have a “different way of looking at things.”

“For us Italians, a slap can be a way to teach a child a lesson,” Patruno said, according to Aftonbladet.

The Local/dl (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:59 September 6, 2011 by occassional
Paese che vai, usanze che trovi.
16:27 September 6, 2011 by foxpur
In Italy this could be normal.. of this I don't doubt.

This isn't Italy. It is Sweden, the rules and attitudes are different.

You break the rules of where you are, you get in trouble there.

Pretty normal.. idiom "When in Rome, do as the Romans." - Italian's should be pretty aware of it, they invented it.
16:53 September 6, 2011 by Svensksmith
That wasn't slapping, that was conversation. You know Italians talk with their hands.
17:03 September 6, 2011 by Atlas
Swede leaves child outside a shop in USA, Americans cry child abuse, Swedes yell "Yankee prehistoric rules that belong to Smithsonians" ...

Italian "slaps" his son to teach some obedience (perfectly normal to some cultures), Swedes yell child abuse, Italians say Cosi Fan'Tutti (Sorry Tinto Brass, couldn't resist :D)...

How ironic...

When in Rome, do as Romans applies to Swedes as well, not just Italians.
17:17 September 6, 2011 by PaulTheOctopus
parents should threat their chidren how they want. offcourse not crossing the line
17:30 September 6, 2011 by Gabin
Ma dai,,,

Where are the lite Hitlers...
17:34 September 6, 2011 by Scepticion
The usual lack of common sense in Sweden.

The thing to do for the police would have been to tell the guy: "look, here in Sweden we have laws against child beating. Take this as a warning, don't do it again, and enjoy the rest of your stay." Instead of ruining the holidays of a tourist. I doubt that many tourist guides/offices/books point out that you are forbidden to slap your child in Sweden.

It's a free Western country, part of the EU, not some repressive state where you are well advised to read up a bit on laws and customs before you enter.
18:59 September 6, 2011 by old git
was the guy in custody btween the incident and his appearance in court?
19:23 September 6, 2011 by Grokh
Bad parenting has no nationality.
19:58 September 6, 2011 by Rossminster
I love the understatement: "Putting a dent in the remainder of the family's holiday plans/"

I'll bet it bloody did!!
20:19 September 6, 2011 by zooeden
Sure, a pedagogisk hit is OK, you dont become charles manson for that!!!
21:05 September 6, 2011 by eddie123
hmm... when this blows over... the dad should think carefully before taking his son on another vacation... for a boy who doesn't earn his living, he is sure arrogant dictating where or what the family will eat. pampered brat i guess. and the dad must learn to be his parenting methods. there is no use engaging his son openly. he could have taken up the disciplinary issues after their vacation.
22:13 September 6, 2011 by ironman294
Knowing how stupid and wacky swedish justice is, this italian guy will get more punishment for grabbing his son's hair then a rapist in Sweden.

I predict one year in jail for him and 100,000SEK fine to his son, while the regular rapist in sweden at most gets 1 month in jail and a 10,000 SEK fine.
23:09 September 6, 2011 by jamesblish
The comments to this article were exactly what I thought they'd be.
23:22 September 6, 2011 by johnoleson
The lad is probably more traumatized by his fathers arrest then being slapped for disobedience. How would the Swedish justice system handle real crime. Oh yes, they really don't handle real crime, they ignore it. Not politically expedient.
00:03 September 7, 2011 by soultraveler3
It doesn't even sound like he hit the kid, more like he grabbed him by the collar and accidentally got some of his hair. Hitting isn't the answer, but this seems like it may have been blown out of proportion.
00:16 September 7, 2011 by GLO
I have no problem with this event as reported unless he hit him with a closed fist, thats an assault. Otherwise get out of family business.
00:46 September 7, 2011 by foxpur
So using some of these arguments that it was ok because we do it back home, I should be from say, Syria, and just have the family disappeared suddenly because they do it back in my country. The "It's ok back in my country" just doesn't work.
07:22 September 7, 2011 by kuteer
If a parent hit his children is not mature enough to be a parent!!!
15:19 September 7, 2011 by jamesblish
None of you know what happened. That's a fact. All we know is that a guy in the street saw something that he felt was over the top, and got the cops involved. Which is exactly what any sane person should do. I'm not surprised the italians are laughing about it - after all, they're a die-hard catholic country and we all know how catholics feel about children. But intervening when a kid gets hurt IS the right thing to do and whether the guy will serve some sort of sentence for it, is up to the court to decide. 90% of people commenting here are trolls btw.
11:10 September 8, 2011 by Ankinette
Che palle! ;)
17:13 September 8, 2011 by Stopbeingsuchawuss
Child abuse is illegal in Sweden, if you are stupid enough to do it here you should be aware that his is a serious crime and will get you in jail. This is a serious offense, and nothing to gruff about. People who abuse their children deserve nothing less. L2 live in the 21st century.
23:18 September 8, 2011 by hughknows
This doesn't add up.

The Local is a great resource, but often leaves me confused and unimpressed, and wondering if the bad journalism is The Local's fault, or their Swedish media sources. This article has a headline stating that an Italian is going on trial for 'slapping' his son.

Yet from reading the article, the only person who seems to have even used the term 'slap' is the Italian press - and erroneously if the facts presented here are correct.

In this article it mentions the terms 'attack' - (in reference to hair-pulling only), and 'hit' yet the only accusation directly outlined from the Swedish diners is that the father forcefully grabbed the boy's hair! No witnesses or accusers of 'slapping'. Now a major question is unanswered - did any Swede actually see him 'slap' his kid? Or did they just see him pull the hair??

"While the Italian politician maintains that he never hit his son, eye witnesses told the court that Colasante grabbed the boy's hair, causing him to cry out in pain."

Why did the eyewitnesses not say 'Yes he did hit him outright. He slapped him.' If all they've got is hair-pulling, it makes no sense to me how he could be on trial for 'slapping' the kid, and if even the 'compassionate' Swedish diners didn't see such a thing why 'slapping' the kid should then continue to be used as a sensationalist headline...? If it's clear that he didn't slap his son and no one is saying he did - then the original charge is a kind of travesty. Either that or just The Local's headline.

Not that I think it's a great idea to grab a petulant child by the hair or anything, but that's no reason to be arrested and publicised for 'attacking, hitting, and slapping' when no-one witnessed such.
00:52 September 9, 2011 by jamesblish
Why are you bringing up the case with the mother who left her child unttended (which by the way is not a crime neither in Sweden nor the US)? What does that have to do with this case?
10:24 September 9, 2011 by Da Goat
Perhaps he should have just let the little brat run away and go hungry on the streets of Stockholm instead!

imagine the out rage then !!!

I hope the son got a good flog when he got home again.... or at least got to go hungry for a day so he will appreciate the food his loving father supplies him every day! Remember a lot of people go hungry every day in this sick old world.

the cops sure did go over board here, yeah perhaps fathers are easier to catch than criminals!
14:53 September 9, 2011 by jamesblish
Yeah, you're absolutely right. A father provides food for his kids so of course he's got the right to hurt them any way he wants to.
10:07 September 11, 2011 by sjuttiosjusköterskorpåsjukhuset
This is a cultural issue. The kid is a freakin' BRAT. Swedish children are way too spoiled, thanks to Swedish government getting way too involved in family issues. Sweden can't possibly expect that tourists from abroad are going to "discipline" their children like Swedes do: which is to do nothing at all but acquiesce to their every brat demand. They need a father like Colasante and not some Mr. Mom crocheting sweaters and baby bootees, pushing a stroller, and changing a baby's nappies while mum is doing repair work. Otherwise, Sweden, don't advertise for tourists from outside of Scandinavia.
18:53 February 2, 2012 by ikebana
I don't see the problem, it's NOT a cultural issue. The law says that it's forbidden to hit a child in Sweden and the law is based on democratic opionion. Thats it. It's amazing that italians scream "dictatorship" when in fact, Italy is one of europes most corrupted country.
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