Eternit prosecutors appeal (3)

Agst judge's decision to downgrade charge, move cases

(ANSA) - Turin, January 12 - Turin prosecutors on Thursday appealed to the Italy's highest appeals court, the Cassation Court, against a judge's decision to downgrade charges in the Eternit asbestos-deaths case from voluntary homicide to culpable homicide and her splitting the trial into four branches, shifting almost all cases from Turin to Naples, Reggio Emilia and Vercelli. Only two of the 258 cases remain in Turin. The charges against Swiss entrepreneur Stephan Schmidheiny as part of the Eternit asbestos case were changed on November 29. In 2012 he was found guilty of negligence at Eternit's now-defunct Italian factories in the 1970s and 1980s and sentenced to 18 years in prison, but the Cassation Court overturned the verdict in November 2014 on the grounds that the case had timed out. The Constitutional Court in July green-lit a multiple manslaughter trial against him for the asbestos deaths of 258 workers at four Eternit cement plants while he owned the company.
    In the November ruling, a Turin judge ruled that about a hundred of the cases had reached the statute of limitations and ordered that others be transferred to the Reggio Emilia, Vercelli and Naples prosecutor's offices.
    Only two cases remain in Turin, for which a trial will begin on June 14.
    Schmidheiny's defense lawyer, Astolfo Di Amato, called it a "huge victory", while one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs called it "a failure for the administration of justice".
    The lawyer, Sergio Bonetto, noted that the transfer of the cases to three other prosecutors' offices would significantly lengthen the time "before the cause of and responsibility for these deaths can be ascertained".