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Last Updated: Monday, 6 November 2006, 18:04 GMT
Row over Italian toilet artwork
Christian Fraser
BBC News, Rome

A generic picture of a toilet
Prosecutors say the national anthem should not be ridiculed
A toilet which flushes to the sound of Italy's national anthem has been impounded by police in northern Italy, sparking great patriotic debate.

The offending loo was the creation of two artists and was on display at the Bolzano Museum of Modern Art.

Prosecutors say the Fratelli d'Italia anthem is a national emblem which should be protected and should never be open to ridicule.

A judgement is expected to be made later this week.

Who owns the national anthem? And is it unpatriotic to play it in a context in which it could be ridiculed? Those are the questions for the court in Bolzano.

Flash in the pan?

Defence barristers for the museum argue that while the anthem does have patriotic and sentimental value, it is not a national symbol.

The prosecution on the other hand argue the symbolism of playing the anthem while flushing a toilet is an offence to the nation and they have put forward a robust case.

They point to a decree issued this year by the former government of Silvio Berlusconi which defined the national anthem as an emblem and the property of the state.

A judgement will be made later this week. Arguments may then begin over whether this marks a precedent or whether it is just a flash in the pan.

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