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Vatican newspaper 'in complete solidarity' with convicted Italian ex-PM

The official Vatican newspaper has expressed "complete solidarity" with former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, who has been sentenced to a 24-year prison term for having arranged the murder of a journalist.

L'Osservatore Romano said that a Sunday appeals court decision, overturning the earlier acquittal of the former prime minister, was "absurd and disconcerting."

Andreotti is charged with having ordered the death of Mino Pecorelli, an Italian journalist who was killed in March 1979. Witnessed testified that the journalist was on the verge of revealing information that would ruined Andreotti's political career - information regarding the assassination of another former prime minister, Aldo Moro.

The case against Andreotti was built on the testimony of "pentiti" - Mafia figures who have begun cooperating with prosecutors in exchange for more lenient treatment of their own cases. In September 1999, a court in Perugia found Andreotti innocent of the charges, accepting his explanation that the witnesses were seeking revenge after previous clashes between Andreotti and organised crime.

L'Osservatore Romano, in its 19 November edition, said that many Italian figures who have been prosecuted on the basis of evidence supplied by "pentiti" have subsequently been found innocent.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Camillo Ruini of Rome said that the court judgment against Andreotti was "very heavy." He added: "I still believe that he is innocent, and it is my duty, under these sad circumstances, to confirm in public my personal esteem for him."

Catholic World News

Andreotti 'gutted' by murder verdict (BBC)

19 Nov 2002