“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.