Page last updated at 16:42 GMT, Monday, 2 February 2009

Four get life for 'mafia' killing


A court in Italy has sentenced four alleged mafia members to life in prison for the murder of a politician in the southern region of Calabria in 2005.

Francesco Fortugno, vice-president of Calabria's regional assembly, was shot dead at a polling station in Locri.

His murder caused outrage in Italy and was seen as a challenge to the state by the Calabrian mafia, the 'Ndrangheta.

The four men convicted by the court in Locri were accused by prosecutors of being 'Ndrangheta members.

The 'Ndrangheta - which means "Honoured Society" - shot into the limelight in 2007 after six of its members were massacred in Germany.

The criminal organisation has interests in the illegal drugs trade and money laundering, as well as construction and infrastructure.

'System of collusion'

Mr Fortugno, a former doctor, was investigating the awarding of hospital contracts in the Calabrian healthcare system at the time of his murder, which happened on 16 October 2005.

In court on Monday, Alessandro Marciano and his son, Giuseppe, were found guilty of ordering the killing, Salvatore Ritorto was found guilty of being the gunman, while Domenico Audino was judged to have been an accomplice.

Today many offences are committed in Calabria often go unpunished because people are scared to file a complaint
Agazio Loiero
Calabrian regional president

Three other men were given sentences ranging from four to 12 years for offences including mafia association.

"This sentence is important because people in Calabria can conclude there is a genuine will to denounce these crimes," said Agazio Loiero, president of the Calabria region, after the verdict.

"Today many offences are committed in Calabria often go unpunished because people are scared to file a complaint," he added.

Giuseppe Lumia, the former head of the Italian parliament's anti-mafia commission and member of Mr Fortugno's Democratic Party, said he hoped the "system of collusion" built by the 'Ndrangheta could finally be uncovered.

In 2007, a key informant in the case who helped identify the four convicted men committed suicide.

Despite being given police protection, Bruno Piccolo was said to have been fearful for his life and felt ostracised by the local community.

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