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The U.S. Justice Department filed a legal brief with an Italian judge seeking immunity from having to pay a former Aviano Air Base employee, continuing the legal saga that put seized Army and Air Force Exchange Service merchandise in an auction limbo.

A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 8 in the Civil Court of Pordenone. It was scheduled after the U.S. Justice Department filed a brief maintaining the U.S. government already fulfilled its financial and contractual obligations to Mauro Martin when it paid off his bank debt after Martin was laid off 15 years ago, according to the brief.

Martin, an Italian, worked at Aviano as a bus driver and motor pool dispatcher from 1975 to 1991. According to his lawyer, Roberto Russi, the U.S. government violated Italian law regarding money it owed Martin when he was laid off in 1991.

In suits filed against the U.S. government, Martin alleged the U.S. illegally paid off his debts to a creditor, Banca Carimonte, instead of giving him the money. Three Italian court decisions — including the Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome — supported Martin’s position. Italian courts sanctioned an auction of merchandise seized from AAFES in order to settle Martin’s 22,000-euro claim.

“Such a situation has created notable problems for the American administration, which must repay Martin an amount that, in fact, has already been paid,” reads a portion of the 23-page brief, filed in mid-August.

In its brief, the U.S. government argues that the military — and by extension the AAFES goods — are immune from such an action because the products “are in fulfillment of a public function,” the brief states.

“We will argue that barbecues, women’s bras, perfumes, and makeup, how do those serve a function of the state,” Rossi said in a phone interview Tuesday.

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