Italian political heavyweights on trial in mafia bomb case


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Sicilian mob bosses and high-ranking Italian officials, both former and current, went on trial today over allegations they held secret negotiations to stop a wave of deadly mafia bombings in the early 1990s.

The trial stems from a period in Italian history when the “Bribesville” corruption investigations brought down the political establishment around the same time as a string of mafia bombs killed 21 people.

Prosecutors say the bombings stopped in 1994 after a deal brokered by Marcello Dell’Utri, a former senator and close associate of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Judge Alfredo Montalto opened the trial in a high-security “bunker” courthouse near Palermo.

Prosecutors allege that senior politicians and police officials held talks with the mafia after judge Giovanni Falcone, his wife and three bodyguards were assassinated by a bomb under a road in 1992.

The state’s willingness to enter talks after Falcone’s murder encouraged further bombings, prosecutors say, and prompted the assassination of prosecutor Paolo Borsellino because he had learned of and opposed the negotiations.

In exchange for stopping the bombings, the Sicilian mafia wanted lighter sentences for convicted gangsters.

“The state cannot sweep its responsibilities under the rug,” prosecutor Antonino Di Matteo told reporters before the hearing.

Berlusconi is not being charged. 10 defendants in total, including Dell’Utri, face charges that they sought to blackmail the state. All of them deny any wrongdoing.