Italian MPs rally to Andreotti after guilty verdict

 

Italian politicians have demanded an overhaul of the justice system after an appeals court found former prime minister Mr Giulio Andreotti guilty of complicity to murder.

Andreotti (83) has always denied Mafia allegations that he ordered the 1979 killing of investigative journalist Mr Mino Pecorelli, and he said he would fight the shock verdict in Italy's highest court. He was sentenced to 24 years in jail.

An array of politicians rallied to the support of a man who has held every top job in government, saying the ruling raised fundamental doubts about the Italian judiciary.

"Senator Andreotti . . . is the victim of an administration of justice that has abandoned every formal scruple and totally denies the right of people to have a fair trial," Prime Minister Mr Silvio Berlusconi said in a statement.

"I have always believed in justice and I continue to believe, even if this evening I find it difficult to accept such an absurdity," Andreotti said in a brief statement yesterday.

Yesterday's ruling overturned an original 1999 acquittal in the case. The appeals panel also found Mafia boss Gaetano Badalamenti guilty of conspiring to murder journalist Mr Pecorelli. Badalamenti is serving a prison term in the United States for his role in a mob drug-ring.

The prosecution, using a Mafia turncoat as a witness, said Andreotti asked mobsters to kill Mr Pecorelli after discovering that he was about to publish documents that could have wrecked his political career. The murderer has never been found.