Relatives of Brusca’s victims and leading politicians decry move, even though ‘people-slayer’ criminal provided state with key information while imprisoned.
Italians have reacted with dismay over the release of an infamous Cosa Nostra mafia boss who, among other crimes, assassinated a prosecutor and dissolved a boy’s body in acid.
Sicilian Mafia turncoat Giovanni Brusca, 64, was released from Rome’s Rebibbia prison on Monday after serving a 25-year sentence.
He was arrested in 1996, four years after he detonated the bomb that killed Giovanni Falcone, an Italian magistrate who dedicated his career to overthrowing the mafia.
The attack also killed Falcone’s wife and three policemen.
Brusca, known as the “people-slayer”, has confessed his role in over 100 murders, including the death of a 14-year-old boy; Giuseppe Di Matteo, the son of a mafia informant, was killed and dissolved in acid.
But after turning state turncoat, Brusca helped prosecutors in their crackdown against the Cosa Nostra clans.
He provided information on several deadly Cosa Nostra attacks carried out in the 1980s and 1990s and testified in a trial over alleged negotiations between Italian officials and mobsters to stop the bombings.
‘Not the justice Italians deserve’
Prior to Monday’s release, Brusca had already been granted temporary leave from prison on several occasions. He will now be on parole for four years, Italian media reported.
His release led to grief and anger among the relatives of his victims.
“He has collaborated with justice only to get the benefits, it was not a personal, intimate choice,” Rosaria Costa, the widow of a policeman who died in the Falcone bombing, told daily newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Maria Falcone, the sister of the judge, said she was “saddened” but understood that the law gave Brusca the right to leave prison.
Both sides of Italy’s political divide also decried the decision to release Brusca.
The leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, Enrico Letta, called it “a punch in the stomach that leaves one speechless, wondering how it’s possible”.
Far-right leader Matteo Salvini, head of the League Party, said: “A person who committed these acts, who dissolved a child in acid, who killed Falcone, is in my opinion a wild beast and cannot get out of prison.
“This is not the ‘justice’ that Italians deserve.”
But Federico Cafiero De Raho, Italy’s chief anti-mafia prosecutor, defended the ruling.
“Regardless of what one may think of the atrocities he committed at the time, there was a collaboration … Let us not forget that he gave information on bombings both in Sicily and in mainland Italy,” De Raho told Reuters.
“Clearly, the judges believed this was the appropriate jail term.”