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Eggplant thief cleared of charges after 9 years

An Italian man has finally been acquitted of stealing an eggplant (aubergine to some, brinjal to others) 9 years and thousands of euros after the “crime” took place.

In desperate times, people often do desperate things and the man who stole the purple nightshade fruit in 2009 is no exception.

He told arresting police that he stole the eggplant from a privately owned field near Lecce, in the region of Puglia, because he was unemployed at the time and needed to feed himself and his child.

But baba ghanoush never made it to the dinner table that night.

The Italian courts initially sentenced him to five months in prison and ordered him to pay a €500($800 AU) fine. That punishment was reduced on appeal to two months jail-time and €120 ($192 AU).

But the eggplant thief’s legal reps decided this was still a harsh sentence for such a small crime.

They took the case to the Court of Cassation in Rome, Italy’s highest appeals court. The 58-year-old defendant was acquitted nearly a decade after he was first arrested for stealing the vegetable.

Italians take their fruit very seriously.

La Repubblica, an Italian newspaper, quoted the ruling as saying that the man “was definitely acting to satisfy the hunger of his family…  there are grounds for justification (of the theft).”

According to punchng.com, the Italian Court of Cassation criticised the lower courts for not taking into account the weakness of the prosecution’s case, given the man’s financial situation.

The Court also lamented the amount of public money spent on the case, with €7,000 – €8,000 ($11,000 – 12,000 AUD) going towards legal fees as the man was too poor to pay for his own defence, La Repubblica reported.