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Saturday, October 23, 1999 Published at 22:06 GMT 23:06 UK

Debate rages over Andreotti case

Andreotti said prosecutors were 'not willing to surrender to the truth'.

The acquittal of former prime minister Giulio Andreotti has sparked heated debate over the use of Mafia turncoats by the judiciary and the role of state prosecutors in Italy.

The verdict clearing Andreotti of Mafia collusion, widely acknowledged as the country's most important post-war trial, was broadcast live on Italian RAI TV.

Andreotti himself was quick to affirm his faith in the judiciary, but made a pointed reference to prosecuting magistrates who "at times perhaps exaggerate a bit" and are "not willing to surrender to the truth".

Palermo's Chief Prosecutor Pietro Grasso said his office had done its duty "in full respect of the principle that all citizens are equal before the law" .

Members of Andreotti's defence team led a scathing chorus about the fact that much of the prosecution's evidence consisted of uncorroborated testimony from Mafia turncoats.

"In this trial there was not a scrap of evidence against Senator Andreotti," a spokesman told RAI TV.

"The judges, in reaching their verdict, climbed this mountain of hot air generated by witnesses for the prosecution, looked down, and saw that there was nothing there."

'Caught in storm'

[ image: Mafia killings have terrorised Italians]
Mafia killings have terrorised Italians
Respected daily La Republica caught the nature of the reaction in an internet article entitled "Andreotti: Prosecutors and turncoats caught in the storm" .

The article began: "A serious defeat for the prosecutors; a clear demonstration of the illegitimate use of Mafia turncoats; rehabilitation for the Christian Democrats; the end of the attempt to rewrite Italy's history via trials. These are the four recurring themes in the reaction to the acquittal of Andreotti".

It quoted former president Francesco Cossiga denouncing the "political torture" of Andreotti by prosecutors and calling for the sacking of Giancarlo Caselli, the Palermo prosecutor who initiated the proceedings.

But Italian Left Democrats leader Walter Veltroni told Milan's Corriere Della Sera. that the "lynching of magistrates that is now underway is unacceptable.

"They have for years been engaged in a battle which has achieved extraordinary results."

'Stained by organised crime'

Rocco Buttiglione, a former Andreotti ally in the now-defunct Christian Democrat party, said the verdict was "also the acquittal of the Christian Democrats".

The party governed Italy for most of its post-war history, until it was brought down by a series of spectacular corruption scandals in the early 1990s.

The head of the country's anti-Mafia commission, Ottaviano Del Turco, said: "The verdict frees the country from the suspicion that its history is stained by the collusion with organised crime".

BBC Monitoring (, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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