A claim that the Italian state and Mafia bosses agreed a non-aggression pact after a 1990s Mafia killing campaign has resurfaced at a major trial in Sicily. The defendants are mobsters, senior politicians and policemen.
A trial opened inside Palermo's maximum security prison on Monday, centered on the claim that the Italian state resorted to a deal with mafia bosses to stop a Mafia killing campaign. Among the 21 people killed across Italy in 1992-1993 was top judge Giovanni Falcone (scene pictured above).
Judges adjourned Monday's proceedings until Friday to study applications from potential civil plaintiffs, including anti-mafia organizations and the municipality of Florence, where a mafia-planted bomb killed 5 people 20 years ago.
Ex-interior minister heckled
Anti-Mafia activists heckled former Italian interior minister Nicola Mancino as he arrived. He denied that he had been aware of such negotiations, saying he had "always fought the Mafia."
Ten people, including Mancino and then Mafia leader Toto Riina, are on trial. Prosecutors have called as witnesses top figures like President Giorgio Napolitano.
Also on trial are three other jailed Mafia bosses, three former special police officers and ex-senator Marcello dell'Utri, an associate of former president Silvio Berlusconi.
They face charges of conspiracy against the state.
Prosecutors allege that senior officials engaged in secret talks with the Mafia and agreed to be lenient, allowing fewer trials and easier prison conditions, in exchange for an end to attacks.
The prosecution's case rests partly on evidence from the last of the 10 accused, businessman Massimo Ciancimino, whose late father was a Mafia-backed mayor of Palermo who is suspected of having acted as a go-between in the negotiations.
At a related trial on Friday, prosecutors had asked for one of the accused police chiefs, Mario Mori, to be jailed for 9 years for holding back on the arrest of former Cosa Nostra godfather Bernardo Provenzano.
He was caught in 2006 after 43 years on the run.
Pope Francis fronts up to Mafia
On Sunday, Pope Francis hailed a priest murdered in 1993 by the Sicilian Mafia and urged mobsters to stop exploiting people in criminal rackets including prostitution.
"We pray that these Mafia men and women convert to God," said Pope Francis.
Father Pino Puglisi was beatified at a mass in Palermo on Saturday with tens of thousands in attendance. He had tried turn children away from a life of crime. His pleas for help from political and religious authorities were frequently ignored.
"Educating young people according to the Gospel, he (the priest) took them away from organized crime, and thus it (the Mafia) tried to defeat him by killing him," Francis said.
ipj/rc (dpa, AFP)