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Last Updated: Friday, 2 May, 2003, 20:17 GMT 21:17 UK
Italy ex-PM cleared of mafia ties
Giulio Andreotti
Andreotti was acquitted in the first trial

A court of appeal in Sicily has cleared former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti of complicity with the Mafia.

Mr Andreotti, 84, is a leading figure of Italian post-war politics, having served seven times as prime minister.

Judge Salvatore Scaduti told the court that the prosecution could not prove its case, although he said some charges relating to facts before spring 1980 had expired under the statute of limitations.

But he took the unusual step of praising both the prosecution and the defence for what he described as their peaceful and intelligent advocacy during the proceedings.

The trial comes amid tensions between politicians and the judiciary over the handling of corruption cases involving Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and an associate.

'Mafia contact'

Mr Andreotti was not in court for the verdict, but said he had waited for it in Rome "with serenity".

Lawyer Giulia Bongiorno
Andreotti's lawyer was pleased with the result

"I know very well that I have nothing to do with the Mafia, but after the shocking sentence in Perugia, I might be expected to have a few worries," he said.

He was referring to an event late last year, when he was controversially sentenced by another appeal court to 24 years in prison for the murder of an Italian journalist, Mino Pecorelli, in the late 1970s.

Whatever the result of his appeal in that case, he is not liable to serve the sentence because of his age. Italian law does not allow the jailing of anyone over 75.

Supergrass evidence

Mr Berlusconi said he was "happy" with the verdict, adding that the original charges "were whipped up to taint and deform the face of our democracy".

The left-wing opposition also welcomed the verdict as an example of the even-handedness of the judiciary, in what appeared to be a sideswipe at Mr Berlusconi's own attacks on the judiciary.

"It demonstrates that there's no such thing as good magistrates and bad magistrates," said a spokesman for Piero Fassino, leader of the Democrats of the Left.

Mr Andreotti was acquitted in his first trial four years ago, but the prosecution appealed against the ruling.

The appeal trial opened in April 2001.

Mr Andreotti - a leading Christian Democrat - was described during the trial by supergrass Antonino Giuffre as a key Mafia contact during his career.

Giuffre said Mafia bosses had asked Mr Andreotti to shield them from magistrates.

Mr Andreotti was also alleged to have exchanged a so-called kiss of honour with Mafia boss Salvatore Riina in the 1980s. Riina is currently serving life imprisonment.

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23 Oct 99  |  Europe
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06 Jan 01  |  From Our Own Correspondent
Country profile: Italy
20 Oct 02  |  Country profiles


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