Raggi asks immediate trial, says sure of innocence (2)

'Full confidence' in justice system

(ANSA) - Rome, January 3 - Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi on Wednesday asked a Rome court for an immediate trial in an appointments case saying she was sure she could prove her innocence. The immediate effect of the request was to push the possible trial date back until after the March 4 general election, judicial sources said.
    "I asked the Rome court for an immediate trial (and) I want to see the judicial truth emerge as soon as possible", she said.
    Raggi, a member of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) said "I am certain of my innocence and I don't want to dodge any trial. "I have full confidence in the justice system and I firmly believe that transparency is one of the most important values of our administration.".
    Raggi's lawyers said their client would not attend a January 9 preliminary hearing by a preliminary hearings judge.
    This was because their request for an immediate trial meant that the preliminary hearing was not needed, the first citizen's lawyers said. In September prosecutors requested that Raggi be indicted for alleged falsehood in relation to an appointment, but they also asked for a more serious abuse-of-office accusation to be dropped.
    Raggi said she was happy to have the backing of her party but the opposition Democratic Party (PD) on the city council said "there is a risk for the democratic stability of the city, and Raggi will have to resign".
    However, the PD's national leader, former premier Matteo Renzi, said "I'm not asking Raggi to resign, but she should try to carry out her job as mayor" amid a string of widely reported woes.
    The false-declaration charge relates to the appointment of Renato Marra, the brother of former personnel chief Raffaele, as head of the city tourism department.
    The abuse-of-office accusation regarded the appointment of Salvatore Romeo as her political secretary.
    Raffaele Marra was arrested last year in a corruption case in relation to Raggi's executive.
    Raggi, who became Rome's first woman mayor in a landslide last year, is a member of the M5S, which prides itself on not being tainted by the graft scandals that have hit other parties.
    Raggi expressed satisfaction at the prosecutors' request to drop the abuse-of-office charge.
    "I am satisfied to learn that, after months of media mud-slinging at me and the 5-Star Movement, the Rome prosecutors office has decided to drop the abuse-of-office accusation," Raggi said via Facebook.
    M5S founder Beppe Grillo said he was also "very satisfied" that the most serious charge had been dropped and that Raggi had "proven her innocence".
    The M5S's premier candidate and leader Luigi Di Maio stressed that the Rome prosecutors had asked to shelve the abuse of office charges, "over which the press slung mud at us for months".
    Di Maio, who was also Lower House Deputy Speaker, said "we have the utmost confidence in the magistrature and the M5S is continuing to work for Rome".
    Instead of attacking Raggi, the PD should think about 16 former PD regional councillors indicted for "very serious crimes" and about Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala whose indictment has been asked for falsehood, the M5S Rome caucus leader Paolo Ferrara said.
    As well as facing a slew of appointments headaches, Raggi has also been widely criticised for allegedly failing to clear rubbish, repair pot-holed streets and improve public transport.