Sicilian mafia 'people-slayer' released after 25 years in jail


FILE PHOTO: Anti-Mafia police wearing masks to hide their identity, escort top Mafia fugitive Giovani Brusca May 21 as he leaves Palermo's police headquarters to be taken to a maximum security prison. Brusca, accused of mastermining the highway bombing that killed anti-mob judge Giovanni Falcone along with his wife and three bodyguards on May 23, 1992, and is also beleived to have succeeded Salvatore "Toto" Rina as the Mafia's boss of bosses, was arrested with his brother Vincenzo/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) - Sicilian Mafia turncoat Giovanni Brusca, the man who detonated the bomb that killed judge Giovanni Falcone in 1992, has been released from jail after serving a 25-year sentence, causing grief and anger among the relatives of those he killed.

Brusca, 64, was arrested in 1996, four years after the attack that killed Falcone, his wife and three policeman. After turning state turncoat he helped prosecutors in their crackdown against the Cosa Nostra clans.

The Falcone killing, followed two months later by that of fellow anti-mafia magistrate Paolo Borsellino, was one of the most notorious episodes in Italy's long and violent struggle against organised crime.

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, who was killed and dissolved in acid because he was the son of a mafia informant.

"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" by the news but that the law gave Brusca the right to leave prison.

Brusca supplied investigators with 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.

Brusca -- who had already been granted temporary leave from prison on several occasions -- will be on parole for four years, Italian media reported.

"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", chief anti-mafia prosecutor, Federico Cafiero De Raho, told Reuters.

"Clearly, the judges believed this was the appropriate jail term," he added.

Several Italian politicians condemned Brusca's release.

"This is not the 'justice' that Italians deserve," said Matteo Salvini, head of the right-wing League which leads in opinion polls.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante, editing by Gavin Jones and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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