Letter: How Andreotti holds court to inquisitors

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Sir: The magistrates' investigation of Giulio Andreotti (profile, 17 April) is undoubtedly a joyful experience for anyone who follows Italian affairs, especially since the tide began to turn after the atrocious death of judge Giovanni Falcone at the hands of the Mafia nearly a year ago.

However, a word of bitter caution. The matter is remarkable for the speed and efficiency with which the formalities of the judicial process - particularly the request to lift parliamentary immunity from prosecution - are so far being conducted. Yet, interviewed by a panel of 'independent' journalists live on Italian state television immediately after the first accusations, Andreotti held court and juggled with obsequious, respectful and fearful men who were incapable of risking a direct question against him. Here, there was undoubtedly no change.

Andreotti, with his renowned 'Jesuitical' prowess, denies all charges; for the simple reason that an accusation has to be irrefutably proven; whether the long disintegrating structure of Italian justice will achieve this is another matter altogether. Until then he remains the most powerful man in Italy.

Yours sincerely,



19 April