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PORDENONE, Italy — A judge’s decision on the case involving a former Italian employee who has been trying for 16 years to get money from Aviano Air Base isn’t expected until next spring.

Mauro Martin was owed the equivalent of about 5,000 euros in pay when he was let go in 1991. Instead of giving him the money directly, the base paid a creditor — contrary to Italian law. Martin, who had worked at Aviano since 1975, took the base to court in 1994, and the case has been in and out of the Italian legal system ever since.

In an effort to get his money, Martin seized about 23,000 euros’ worth of goods from an Army and Air Force Exchange Service warehouse outside the base in July 2006.

Roberto Russi, Martin’s attorney, said in an interview Thursday that Italian Judge Maria Paola Costa is supposed to issue a decision on May 18 in Pordenone on whether the goods seized from the AAFES warehouse are essential to base operations. Russi said he and his client decided to claim the goods off base, because they didn’t have legal access to go on base and seize assets.

AAFES, which claims its operations have nothing to do with Martin’s case against the base, hasn’t been able to do anything with the items since they were seized.

“Everything is still properly taped, waiting for the court decision,” said Lt. Col. David Konop, an AAFES-Europe spokesman.

According to Russi, the items include mattresses, barbecues, refrigerators, washing machines and a riding lawnmower. The goods were valued at about 23,000 euros at the time and would, in theory, be worth less today because of the change in the exchange rate. If the courts uphold Russi’s arguments, the goods would be sold at an auction with the proceeds going to Martin and the courts.

The U.S. issued Martin a check for about 10,000 euros late last year, but Russi said his client is still owed money to pay for his legal representation. The U.S. doesn’t share that opinion and has appealed a handful of decisions in the case over the years. Some are pending and waiting on Costa’s decision.

Russi said he believes he and his client have a strong case and he expects to win in May. He said he would appeal if his side lost and expects the U.S. to do the same, making it likely that the case won’t end with the May 18 decision.

Russi said he has heard from other Italians elsewhere in Italy who also believe the U.S. owes them money. He said he believes the U.S. is fighting the case so strongly because it doesn’t want to set a precedent in Italy. Charles Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department, said his office’s expert on the case was out of the office and was unavailable to comment.

Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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