Sicily mobs Andreotti as trial opens

He appeared just as he has appeared so often in his long career: a smiling, nervous expression on his face, an elegantly tailored blue suit fitting smoothly over his hunched frame, and a small pile of documents folded under his arm. But yesterday was hardly an ordinary day for Giulio Andreotti as he attended the opening session of his trial on charges of collusion with the Sicilian Mafia.

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.

Suggested Topics
News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
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

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam