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Sweden convicts Italian official of child abuse
Swedish court convicts Italian politician of child abuse for public altercation with son
By The Associated Press

STOCKHOLM (AP) ' An Italian politician who had a public altercation with his 12-year-old son while on vacationing in Sweden was found guilty of child abuse Tuesday in a case that has highlighted differing views on corporal punishment.

The Stockholm District Court said Giovanni Colasante, an official from the small southern Italian town of Canosa di Puglia, "intentionally inflicted pain on his son by pulling him by the hair" for about five seconds during an Aug. 23 argument in Stockholm's Old Town.

Colasante, who denied the charges, was arrested after witnesses approached the family and called police. He spent three nights in jail before returning to Italy and was not present in court Tuesday.

It was not immediately clear whether Colasante would appeal the verdict.

The case has generated front-page headlines in Italy, where it's being called a parenting "culture clash" between northern and southern Europe. But even Italians who say parents shouldn't slap their children question whether Colasante's offense deserved jail time.

Colasante's lawyer, Lars Runeberg, said his client was stunned by how the case was handled by Swedish authorities.

"What has shocked him the most is the way he was deprived of his freedom," Runeberg said.

In Sweden there is zero tolerance for parents who hit their children, and anyone who does in public is often confronted by bystanders or reported to police.

Sweden was the first country in the world to outlaw corporal punishment in 1979, according to the country's Ombudsman for Children.

Noting that boy had not received any injuries, the court said the abuse was regarded as a misdemeanor and waived a fine of 6,600 kronor ($996), saying Colasante's time in jail was sufficient punishment.

But judging by testimony from several witnesses "it is clear that Giovanni Colasante's violence was severe enough to cause the boy pain," the court noted.

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