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CRIME

Meet Nicola Gratteri, the prosecutor leading Italy’s battle against the mafia

After years of investigation and with hundreds of suspects, Italy's plucky anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri on Wednesday begins a major court battle against the country's powerful 'Ndrangheta clan.

Meet Nicola Gratteri, the prosecutor leading Italy's battle against the mafia
talian anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri pictured during a television interview on January 11th. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
For Nicola Gratteri, the lead prosecutor in Italy's largest anti-mafia trial in more than 30 years, the fight against the mob has always been a personal issue.
 
“I have known the mafia since I was a child because I was hitchhiking to school and I often saw dead bodies on the road,” he told AFP ahead of the opening Wednesday of the landmark “maxi-trial”.
 
 
“I thought: when I grow up, I want to do something so that this won't happen again.”
 
More than 350 people are going on trial in Calabria, the heart of the feared 'Ndrangheta organised crime group, accused of everything from murder to drug trafficking, money laundering and mafia association.
 
Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
 
A call centre in the town of Lamezia Terme in Calabria, Italy's poorest region, was specially converted to host the proceedings, which Gratteri expects to last one year but which many believe will stretch on for far longer.
 
The prosecutor grew up in Calabria, from where the 'Ndrangheta has extended its reach across all parts of the world, surpassing Sicily's Cosa Nostra as
Italy's most fearsome crime syndicate.
 
“I know the 'Ndrangheta well from inside, because when I was a child I was at school with the children of mafia bosses,” Gratteri said.
 
“The kids I played with then became mobsters and then became drug traffickers. So, that's why I'm familiar with the criminal philosophy, the way of thinking of the 'Ndrangheta members, and this helps in my work,” he added.
 
 
Decades under police protection
 
Gratteri said he felt “very confident” that his case would stand up in court, in what promises to be a long and complicated trial, with more than 900 witnesses just for the prosecution.
 
It focuses on the Mancuso, a clan based in the Vibo Valentia province, as well as on the politicians, lawyers, businessmen and others accused of enabling them.
 
Gratteri, 62, has spent three decades under close police protection, and is one of Italy's most high-profile anti-mafia figures.
 
He is often compared with Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, the star prosecutors who worked on Italy's first mass trial against the mafia in the
1980s.
 
That trial, leading to hundreds of convictions, dealt a major blow to Sicily's Cosa Nostra, but cost Falcone and Borsellino their lives as mobsters
killed them both in retribution.
 
Gratteri said his anti-mafia efforts were being supported by the gradual breakdown of “omerta”, the mafia code of silence, among ordinary people.
 
“Over the last years we have gained a lot of credibility, a lot of trust. People have started to cooperate, the people are standing by us, are starting
to believe in us,” he said.
 
Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
 
The 'Ndrangheta is the most powerful of Italy's mafia groups, and is itself comprised of numerous clans.

Through the years it has diversified, modernised and spread across Italy and the continent.

Italy's law enforcement still faces a struggle with mafia activity in a country where complicity can be found “at all levels of state administration,” Sergi said.

“The mafias are not external bodies to our otherwise well-functioning society, they are the mirror of our functioning,” added Gratteri, quoting the late judge Falcone.

“Italy is unable to admit it, it makes an enemy of it, forgetting that it (the mafia) is part of who we are,” he said.

“In each of us there is a little 'Ndranghetist',” said Gratteri.

By AFP's Alvise Armellini

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BOLOGNA

Italy’s president calls for ‘full truth’ on anniversary of Bologna bombing

President Sergio Mattarella said on Tuesday it was the state's duty to shed more light on the 1980 bombing of Bologna's train station, on the 42nd anniversary of the attack that killed 85 people and injured 200.

Italy's president calls for 'full truth' on anniversary of Bologna bombing

On August 2nd 1980, a bomb exploded in the railway station’s waiting room, causing devastation on an unprecedented scale.

Five members of terrorist groups were later convicted in relation to the bombing, the worst episode in Italy’s ‘Years of Lead’ period of political violence in the 1970s and 80s.

Most recently, in 2020, a former member of the far-right Armed Revolutionary Nucleus (NAR) was sentenced to life imprisonment for providing logistical support to those who carried out the attack.

But suspicions remain of cover-ups and the involvement of “deviant elements” within the nation’s security services, reported Italian news agency Ansa.

READ ALSO: Bologna massacre: 40 years on, questions remain over Italy’s deadliest postwar terror attack

“The bomb that killed people who happened to be at the station on that morning 42 years ago still reverberates with violence in the depths of the country’s conscience,” Mattarella said in a speech marking the anniversary on Tuesday.

“It was the act of cowardly men of unequalled inhumanity, one of the most terrible of the history of the Italian Republic.

A train compartment at Bologna station pictured following the 1980 bombing attributed to the neo-fascist terrorist organization Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari.

“It was a terrorist attack that sought to destabilise democratic institutions and sow fear, hitting ordinary citizens going about their everyday tasks.

“On the day of the anniversary our thoughts go, above all, to the relatives forced to suffer the greatest pain.

“The neo-fascist nature of the massacre has been established in court and further steps have been made to unveil the cover-ups and those who ordered the attack in order to comply with the Republic’s duty to seek the full truth”.

The bombing remains Western Europe’s fourth deadliest postwar terror attack, and one of the most devastating in Italy’s history.

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