A close aide to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and three former police investigators have had their convictions overturned in a case where the state was accused of collusion with the Mafia during its campaign of bombings in the 1990s.
Former senator Marcello Dell’Utri, along with Mario Mori, Antonio Subranni and Giuseppe De Donno, have now been acquitted by a judge at a Palermo appeals court. They had all claimed their innocence.
Dell’Utri has been accused of negotiating a deal to stop the attacks, in exchange for a reduction in crackdowns by authorities and a loosening of stringent conditions for the top bosses behind bars.
Dell’Utri, who had been a politician for Berlusconi’s right-wing Forza Italia party, was convicted in 2018 for serving as a liaison between state institutions and Cosa Nostra bosses in Sicily.
He had been sentenced after a trial to 12 years in prison for attacking the state, just like former generals Mori and Subranni, while ex-colonel De Donno was sentenced to eight years in prison .
But Palermo judge Angelo Pellino ruled the charges did not constitute a crime, suggesting state officials could contact the gangsters if deemed necessary.
However, he upheld the guilty verdicts against two Mafiosi, including Leoluca Bagarella, a convicted killer of the Corleone Mafia family.
Dell’Utri told Italian news agency Adnkronos: “This acquittal is a turning point, not only for me but for the Italian justice system. This trial has been monstrous.”
The prosecution claimed state officials negotiated with the crowd following a series of Mafia bombings that killed 23 people, including prominent anti-Mafia magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.
According to prosecutors, talks between the Mafia and the Italian state began after Judge Falcone, his wife and three bodyguards were killed by a device under a highway in May 1992.
The state’s willingness to enter into negotiations after Mr Falcone’s murder has encouraged further bombings, it has been claimed.
The prosecution said those attacks included the one that killed Borsellino two months later because he opposed the negotiations.
The following year, Cosa Nostra carried out unprecedented continental attacks against cultural and religious targets, most notably the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
Ten people were killed in Milan and Florence. After 1993, the attacks abruptly ceased.
Prosecutors said they would review Thursday’s ruling to decide whether to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.