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Last Updated: Friday, 18 January 2008, 22:51 GMT
Sicily chief guilty in Mafia case
By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

Sicily's governor Salvatore Cuffaro is hugged by his lawyer in court in Palermo
Prosecutors had requested an eight-year sentence for Cuffaro
The president of the regional government of Sicily has been found guilty of assisting the Mafia and sentenced to five years in prison.

Salvatore Cuffaro was convicted of helping mafia figures under police investigation though judges ruled there was no wilful intent to his actions.

Mr Cuffaro has been freed pending an appeal - which may take years.

Although he has also been banned from public office, he is refusing to step down as the sentence is not confirmed.

Salvatore Cuffaro - president of Sicily for the past seven years - has been on trial for three years.

He was charged with passing on information about mafia crime investigations to informers who then tipped off members of the mob being investigated.

Prosecutors had requested an eight-year sentence, but the judges decided on a five-year prison term as they found there had been neither conspiracy nor wilful intent by Sicily's top administrator and politician.

Corruption charges

Appeals are automatic in Italy so Mr Cuffaro will not go to jail until a final verdict is given, which could take years.

Map
Although he has also been banned from holding public office he is refusing to step down as the ban does not begin until his sentence has been confirmed.

Another of the accused in the same trial, Michele Aiello, who used to run a private clinic, was sentenced to 14 years for associating with members of organised crime, revealing classified information and having illegal access to law enforcement computers.

Mr Cuffaro belongs to a small right-wing Catholic political party and has the support of the local Catholic church and leading Sicilian businessmen.

In separate criminal cases, prosecutors in Naples have called for the former prime minister and media magnate, Silvio Berlusconi, to be sent for trial on corruption charges.

And the former justice minister, Clemente Mastella, resigned earlier this week after coming under investigation by Naples prosecutors together with members of his family on corruption charges.

SEE ALSO
Mafia men get 300 years in jail
16 Nov 06 |  Europe
Profile: Bernardo Provenzano
11 Apr 06 |  Europe



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