Andreotti faces murder trial

ANDREW GUMBEL

Rome

The former Italian prime minister, Giulio Andreotti, already on trial for criminal involvement with the Sicilian Mafia, was indicted yesterday on the separate and even more damaging charge of ordering the murder of an investigative journalist who had been threatening to reveal some of his darkest political secrets.

Mr Andreotti, the eminence grise of the postwar Christian Democrat establishment and Italy's best-known politician abroad, was ordered to stand trial on 2 February along with five other suspects for the killing of Mino Pecorelli, a Rome-based magazine editor who was shot in the head twice at close range outside his offices on 20 March 1979.

According to the prosecution, Mr Andreotti, at the time serving the fifth of his seven stints as prime minister, asked his friends in the Sicilian Mafia to arrange the murder because he was afraid of the potentially damaging revelations that Pecorelli might make about his activities during the kidnap and murder of a fellow Christian Democrat and former prime minister, Aldo Moro, by the Red Brigades in 1978.

Among Mr Andreotti's co-defendants will be two Cosa Nostra chieftains, Pippo Calo and Gaetano Badalamenti, the two gangsters accused of actually carrying out the crime, Michelangelo La Barbera and Massimo Carminati, and one of Mr Andreotti's closest political allies, the former magistrate and foreign trade minister, Claudio Vitalone.

The case is based almost wholly on the revelations of six mafiosi who have turned state's evidence, including the first and most important of the Cosa Nostra supergrasses, Tommaso Buscetta.

The judge presiding over the preliminary court ruled yesterday that the accounts of the six tallied sufficiently to provide a "coherent basis to proceed".

Lawyers for Mr Andreotti and Mr Vitalone, however, described the admission of their evidence as a "death knell for justice" and "a web of accusations based on stories that have been cooked up and recooked".

Rumours have been swirling for years that the Christian Democrat leadership, including the faction led by Mr Andreotti, allowed Moro to be killed, because he represented a threat to their party interests and because he favoured a political coalition with the Communist Party.

Pecorelli had several sources in the intelligence services which he used time and again to embarrass the Christian Democrats in his magazine, Op.

Inevitably he made many enemies, and acquired a reputation for obtaining information by blackmail.

One of the prosecution's difficulties will be to prove that he had indeed dug up compromising information about Mr Andreotti, since he took his secrets with him to the grave.

There is also a problem with the witnesses, since the two members of Cosa Nostra with whom Mr Andreotti is alleged to have had direct contact, the cousins Nino and Ignazio Salvo, are both now dead.

The defence will concentrate on knocking the credibility of the Mafia turncoats, as it is doing at Mr Andreotti's other trial, which began in Palermo on 26 September. Its biggest liability in both cases is likely to be Mr Andreotti himself, whose statements are often hard to believe, if not downright contradictory.

Earlier this week Mr Andreotti said he had had only two contacts with Pecorelli, once when the journalist asked him for advice on combating headaches, and again in a letter of condolence when Mr Andreotti's mother died. Both episodes seem very odd for two otherwise unacquainted men.

The Mafia trial in Palermo and the murder trial, which will take place in the central city of Perugia, could take years to complete. The lawyers in Palermo are still arguing about procedure after five weeks in and out of court. Mr Andreotti, who is 76, said yesterday he hoped both cases could be resolved "within a time frame that is not Biblical".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own