Sicily mobs Andreotti as trial opens
Wednesday 27 September 1995
At the height of his powers as a government minister and Christian Democrat wheeler-dealer, it was invariably Mr Andreotti who held the attention of whatever company he found himself in, while everyone else sat up and listened. In the chastening surroundings of the courtroom, Mr Andreotti may still have been the centre of attention, but this time not a word passed his lips.
The high-security judicial "bunker" inside an annexe of Palermo's Ucciardone prison has seen some strange sights since it was built for the first Mafia "maxi-trials" in the mid-1980s. Yesterday the 30 hulking iron cages built to contain killers, drug-dealers, and money-launderers a decade ago lay eerily empty at the back of the semi-circular courtroom.
Mr Andreotti came through the same door as the prosecution team; he was not put in a dock, but sat on a front bench next to two of his lawyers, Franco Coppi and Odoardo Ascari. As a devout Catholic he was no doubt reassured by the sight of a large crucifix above the president's chair.
The front of the judges' bench bears the admonition "The Law is Equal for All", but already it is clear that Mr Andreotti is being treated, if only by virtue of his status, as a very special kind of defendant.
He insisted on flying down from Rome on a regular Alitalia service rather than the special private jet to which he is entitled as a former prime minister, and was promptly mobbed by journalists and photographers.
At Palermo airport he enjoyed the kind of reception that used to greet Giovanni Falcone, the murdered anti-Mafia judge who set up the maxi-trials of the 1980s. The road into town was lined with armed police, as well as the occasional graffito proclaiming "Long live Andreotti". It was not easy to tell if Sicily was welcoming a disgraced politician or a film star.
When Mr Andreotti decided to switch hotels at the last moment, one wondered if it was for security reasons, or to give the press the slip.
For the all the build-up and strange symbolism of the event, the opening session ended up as little more than routine. The presiding judge, Francesco Ingargiola, banned live television transmission, to the relief of the prosecution, which had feared an Italian version of the OJ Simpson trial, and allowed the state broadcaster RAI to film the proceedings only from fixed camera positions.
The defence then made a lengthy plea to have the proceedings transferred to Rome, an unlikely prospect since similar requests have consistently been turned down in the past. The trial resumes a week tomorrow.
- 2 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 3 This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
- 4 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
Stephen Hawking's wife Jane Wilde on their marriage breakdown: 'The family were left behind'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Putin critic may have been murdered by Islamic extremists, says president-led committee
British are sexually uptight, dirty and drink too much – according to Spanish book
PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
White and gold or blue and black – what colour is the dress? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'
£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...
£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...
£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...
£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...