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Magistrates slam 'short trial' move

'Unparalleled' and 'devastating', they claim

20 January, 18:31
Magistrates slam 'short trial' move (see previous coverage on site). (ANSA) - Rome, January 20 - Italian magistrates slammed a trial cap bill that moved through parliament on Wednesday, saying it was unparalleled compared to other countries and would have "devastating" consequences on the justice system.

The Comitato Intermagistratura, a committee representing penal, civil, administrative, accounting and state magistrates, said the bill would wipe out "hundreds of thousands of trials with extremely high costs to society and to the state".

Among the cases affected, it said, would be the massive 2003 Parmalat and Cirio bankruptcies and corporate raider assaults on the BNL and Antonveneto banks a few years ago in which thousands of shareholders have filed for compensation.

Also on the list of threatened trials, it said, were Europe's first corporate murder trial for work accidents, at Turin's ThyssenKrupp steelworks where seven workers died in a fire in 2007.

The bill, which moved from the Senate to the House Wednesday, "risks provoking devastating consequences on the entire system of Italian justice," the committee said.

"It is a de fact amnesty on crimes committed before May 2, 2006," the committee said, "a full-fledged whitewash would will ensure complete impunity for typical white-collar crimes and also many insidious forms of widespread crime against weak people".

The Comitato claimed the bill "does not have an equivalent in any other European legislation at a European or international level".

The largest opposition group, the Democratic Party (PD) weighed in against the bill again, with leader Pierluigi Bersani claiming thousands of people would be denied justice for the sake of stopping two trials against Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

"They have done the worst thing possible," the PD leader said. "They've destroyed thousands of trials, leaving thousands of victims without justice in order to save one person," Bersani claimed.

The leader of a smaller opposition party, ex-prosecutor Antonio Di Pietro, went further, saying the bill set up "a Fascist, mafia and P2 regime".

The P2 was a subversive Masonic lodge outlawed in the 1980s.

Berlusconi was among the many prominent Italians found on its membership rolls but has always claimed he became a member "as a joke".

Justice Minister Angelino Alfano meanwhile replied to claims that the justice system was too under-funded to accelerate trials by saying that more than 630 million euros from the sale of mafia assets would boost funding.

Alfano has repeatedly rebutted claims that the bill would have a significant impact on the justice system.

Only 1% of trials would be affected, the government says.

photo: bill opponents in Senate

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