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Govt protecting 'Mafia-threatened magistrates'

Toto' Riina ordered hit on Palermo prosecutor Nino Di Matteo

24 January, 13:16
Govt protecting 'Mafia-threatened magistrates' (ANSA) - Rome, January 24 - The Italian government will protect magistrates from threats against their lives, Justice Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri said Friday.

Several investigators have been threatened by Italia's mafias recently, including former Anti-Mafia chief Pietro Grasso, now Senate Speaker, and lead Palermo prosecutor Nino Di Matteo.

Jailed former Cosa Nostra boss of bosses Toto' Riina ordered a hit on Di Matteo.

Cancellieri said "the whole government will not fail to ensure the most adequate level of protection" against the likes of Riina, who is serving life for his part in the 1992 murders of anti-Mafia crusading magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. The chief prosecutor at the supreme Court of Cassation, Gianfranco Ciani, added that the authorities would respond to threats "unanimously and with the utmost firmness".

Cancellieri and Ciani were speaking at a ceremony marking the start of Italy's judicial year.

Di Matteo reponded for the first time Thursday to Riina's threats, recorded with a listening device placed in his cell.

The comments were not veiled threats but explicit orders to kill, he said.

Riina still had a big say in running Cosa Nostra even though he has been in jail since 1993, Di Matteo said.

"I don't think they can be called mere threats, they are homicidal intentions outlined to a fellow inmate probably because they would be taken outside in order to be carried out," Di Matteo told Italian radio.

"Still today Riina can certainly try to exercise a command role (in Cosa Nostra), He said. On January 20 prosecutors entered into trial evidence wiretaps of prison conversations between Riina, 83, and another jailed mobster, in which 'The Beast' gloats over past murders and plots future ones.

The conversations held in November last year between Riina and boss Alberto Lorusso from the Puglia-based Sacra Corona Unita mafia were entered into evidence for an ongoing Palermo trial into alleged secret negotiations between the Italian State and the Mafia two decades ago.

Riina is in maximum security prison in Milan for crimes including ordering the Falcone and Borsellino slayings and is watching the trial on video.

The shocking Falcone and Borsellino murders were among the crimes that allegedly induced the State to enter into secret talks with Cosa Nostra in a bid to stop attacks after a long campaign of violence that included blowing judges and prosecutors up with carbombs.

"We must take measures for you people. Ones that will make you dance the samba", Riina said of the trial judges in a wiretapped November 16 chat with Lorusso.

"Let's organize this thing. Let's make it real big", he adds about deputy prosecutor Di Matteo, threatening to kill him "like a tuna fish".

"Because Di Matteo is not leaving. They just gave him more bodyguards. So if possible, an execution like back in the day in Palermo....this prosecutor and this trial are driving me crazy".

Riina goes on to gloat over the July 29, 1983, carbombing murder of prosecuting magistrate Rocco Chinnici, who put together an elite anti-Mafia investigative team, laying the groundwork for the 'Maxi Trial' against the Sicilian Mafia in 1986, and who frequently spoke out against the Mafia in schools and public appearances at a time when officials including some judges had avoided the word for many years.

Riina watched the explosion from afar, and saw the magistrate's body fly into the air and fall to the ground.

"I had fun thinking about that for a couple of years at least. I messed him up good", Riina said.

He also indulged in slinging vitriol at new Cosa Nostra leader Matteo Messina Denaro, also known as Diabolik, who is known to launder his ill-gotten gains - billions of which have been seized by police in recent years - through solar and wind energy investments.

"I hate to say this, but this Signore Messina Denaro, this fugitive who acts like he's the boss, doesn't give a toss about us. He dabbles in streetlights, but he'd look a whole lot better if he shone a light up his a**".

In other remarks made public Wednesday, Riina recalled that he had prepared a special "welcome" for Carabinieri General Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, slain with his wife in September 1982, five months after being sent to Palermo to fight the Mafia.

Riina also said late Christian Democrat (DC) statesman Giulio Andreotti, who judges concluded helped the Mafia until 1980, was the "best" politician Italy ever had.

A month before being appointed Palermo prefect, Dalla Chiesa went public with prosecutors' long-held contentions that the Sicily section of Andreotti's DC faction was "the most infiltrated by the Mafia".

Andreotti's Sicily 'proconsul' Salvo Lima's assassination in early 1992 is believed to have marked the end of a truce, sparked by Riina's irate reaction to the confirmation of heavy Maxi-trial convictions.

Prosecutors said the Mob had been hoping Andreotti's man on the supreme court, 'sentence-killer' Corrado Carnevale, would get the sentences overturned as he had in the past.