'Da Vinci Code' under investigation in Italy

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TAORMINA, Sicily -- More than a year after its premiere, "The Da Vinci Code" is being investigated by Italian state attorneys on the grounds that it is "obscene" from a religious perspective.

Earlier this year, a complaint against the film was filed by a group of clergy near the Italian village of Civitavecchia, where the state prosecutor said it would open a criminal investigation into the film. The complaint says the film violates Article 528 of Italy's Penal Code.

The complaint names 10 people, including director Ron Howard and author Dan Brown.

The investigation means the case will have its day in court in the seaside port village about 40 miles north of Rome, though a judge could simply elect to throw the charges out. But it is significant that the state prosecutor agreed to investigate it.

It is unclear what the unnamed complainants -- reported by the state prosecutor to all be Catholic clergy from the area -- are seeking.

Under the terms of Article 528 of the Penal Code, if found guilty the defendants will have a criminal record in Italy and would each face jail time of at least three months and fines of at least €103 ($139). Jail time is capped at three years, but there is no upward limit on the fines, legal experts said. The defendants cannot be extradited for the charges but they can be apprehended if they are already on Italian soil.

The development comes as Howard is beginning preproduction work here on "Angels and Demons," the highly awaited sequel to "Da Vinci," also authored by Brown.

Asked why the case is being opened now, some 13 months after the film debuted at least year's Festival de Cannes, an official at the Civitavecchia state prosecutor said he wasn't sure.

"I don't know," the official said in a telephone interview. "Maybe they (the clergy who filed the complaint) have just seen the film."

Both the book and film version of "Da Vinci" attracted widespread criticism from religious groups, but this appears to be the first time parties have taken legal action against the work.
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