Arnold Schuler et al v. Karl Bär et al

6596/17 // 6598/17 // 2092/20 // 1245/20
September 26, 2017
Final judgment
Italy, Bolzano

Farmers, Governments
Arnold Schuler, 1367 agriculteurs
Karl Bär, Alexander Karl Schiebel, Umweltinstitut München (Munich Environment Institute)
Nicola Canestrini, Francesca Cancellaro

Criminal court
Not specified
Reparation of the damage and penal sanction (fine, detention).
Regional Court of Bolzano, Italy

May 6, 2022
In the trial against Karl Bär, the withdrawal of the defamation charges leads to an immediate acquittal. The amendment of the indictment from trademark infringement, which was prosecuted ex officio, to defamation renders it null and void. Karl Bär and the Munich Environmental Institute are therefore acquitted ex officio due to the inadmissibility of the proceedings.
No description

Following a pastiche of a 2017 advertising campaign denouncing the intensive use of pesticides on apple farms in the province of South Tyrol (Alto Adige), the Province's Minister of Agriculture, Arnold Schuler and 1367 farmers filed a lawsuit against the Munich Environmental Institute, its agricultural policy advisor, Karl Bär, and six directors of the association for defamation of South Tyrolean and provincial agriculture, and that the institute "counterfeited" the brand "Südtirol". The author of the book "The Miracle of Mals", Alexander Schiebel, and the director of the publishing house, Jacob Radloff, were also sued by A. Schuler and 1,382 people, for the same charge of defamation, because a section in the book criticizes the misuse of pesticides in South Tyrol. In both cases, under public pressure, the public prosecutor's office of Bolzano had asked for the dismissal of the trial, but A. Schuler appealed, before deciding with the plaintiff farmers to withdraw their complaints. The charge of defamation was therefore dropped. However, the second charge of trademark infringement was maintained as an offence prosecuted ex officio. The Public Prosecutor's Office asked the judge to change this charge to defamation, which was accepted by the Court of Bolzano and resulted in a total acquittal of the defendants. The preliminary investigation judge confirmed the prosecutor's request to close the case on May 6, 2022. “The attempt of the regional government to legally prevent any criticism of the use of pesticides has failed. This judgment shows the way forward for all those in Europe who are committed to a healthy environment and nature," said Karl Bär. "In October 2020, the Council of Europe had described the complaints against my client in South Tyrol as a strategic complaint and thus an infringement of freedom of expression. Today, we also have judicial confirmation of this," said attorney Nicola Canestrini.