Massacre of Via D'Amelio
The Massacre of Via D'Amelio (Italian: Strage di via D'Amelio) was a targeted bombing that took place in Palermo, Sicily, on 19 July 1992. It claimed the life of anti-mafia magistrate Paolo Borsellino and those of five members of his police escort: Agostino Catalano, Emanuela Loi (the first Italian female member of a police escort and the first one to be killed), Vincenzo Li Muli, Walter Eddie Cosina and Claudio Traina.
The so-called agenda rossa, the red notebook in which Borsellino used to write down details of his investigations and which he always carried on his person, disappeared from the site in the moments after the explosion. A carabinieri officer who was present when the explosion occurred reported that he had delivered the notebook to Giuseppe Ayala, the first Palermo magistrate to arrive at the scene. Ayala, who stated that he had refused to receive it, was later criticized for saying that escorts to anti-mafia judges should be reduced, despite evidence of further failed attempts on them in subsequent years.
The bombing occurred at 4:58 PM on 19 July 1992, 57 days after the bombing of Capaci, in which Borsellino's friend, anti-mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone, had been killed with his wife and police escort. The only survivor of the escort in the massacre of Via D'Amelio, Antonino Vullo, declared that the judge had stayed in his summer residence outside Palermo from 1:30 pm to around 4:00 pm, when he and the escort drove to Via D'Amelio in the Sicilian capital, where he was to meet his mother. When they arrived, Vullo and the other agents noticed nothing unusual except some parked cars. The car in which Borsellino had been travelling exploded, along with one of the escort cars, while Vullo was sitting in a third car.
The bomb, containing some 100 kg of TNT, had been placed in a Fiat 126. Normal procedure when Borsellino travelled was to clear the road of cars before his arrival, but this was not allowed by the administration of the comune of Palermo, as reported by another anti-mafia judge, Antonino Caponnetto. Gaspare Spatuzza, a mafioso who later became a pentito, eventually revealed that he had stolen the Fiat 126 on the orders of the Graviano and Brancaccio mafia clans.
The bloodbath provoked outrage. The night after the massacre, protesters peacefully besieged the prefecture of Palermo. Borsellino's funeral saw vehement protests by the crowd against the participants; the national police chief, Arturo Parisi, was struck while trying to escape. A few days later, questore (local police commander) Vito Plantone and prefetto Mario Jovine were transferred. The chief prosecutor of Palermo, Pietro Giammanco, resigned. Meanwhile, 7,000 soldiers were sent to Sicily to patrol roads and possible locations for attacks.
Borsellino used to carry a red notebook, the so-called agenda rossa, in which he wrote down details of his investigations before making an official record in judicial reports. His colleagues were not given access to the agenda rossa.
Carabinieri officer Rosario Farinella said later that after recovering the agenda rossa from the car, he gave it to Ayala. Ayala stated that he was staying in a hotel nearby and rushed to the place after hearing the explosion. He initially stumbled on the corpse of Borsellino without recognizing it, as the dead judge was limbless. Ayala said that "an officer in uniform" had offered him the notebook, but that he had refused it because he lacked authority. Carabinieri captain Arcangioli declared that he was not wearing uniform at the scene. In September 2005, Ayala changed his version, declaring that he took the agenda rossa while exploring the destroyed car and that he later gave it to a carabinieri officer who was there. Ayala's subsequent statements speak of an agent alternately in uniform and not in uniform.
On 1 July 1992 Borsellino had held a meeting with Nicola Mancino, who at the time had just been appointed Minister of the Interior. Details of the meeting have never been disclosed, but it is likely that Borsellino had annotated them in his agenda. Mancino, however, always denied that he had met Borsellino. In a television interview of 24 July 2009, Ayala said, "Mancino himself told me that he had met Borsellino on 1 July 1992. Moreover, Mancino showed me his appointments book, with the name of Borsellino on it." Ayala repudiated this account in an interview in Sette magazine. A video showing Arcangioli holding the agenda rossa while inspecting the bombing area was aired in news on Italian state channel Rai 1 in 2006.
A personal diary in the possession of Borsellino's family has an annotation by the judge that reads: "1 July h 19:30 : Mancino". Vittorio Aliquò, another magistrate, later declared that he had accompanied Borsellino "up to the threshold of the minister's office".
Investigations and sentences
In July 2007 the prosecutor's office in Caltanissetta opened an investigation into the possible involvement of agents from SISDE, Italy's civil intelligence service, in the massacre. At the same time, a letter from Borsellino's brother Salvatore was published. Entitled 19 luglio 1992: Una strage di stato ("19 July 1992: A state massacre"), the letter supports the hypothesis that Minister of the Interior Mancino knew the reasons for the magistrate's assassination. Salvatore Borsellino wrote:
I ask senator Mancino, who shed a tear, I remember, during a commemoration of Paolo in Palermo in the years after 1992, to strain his memory to tell us what they talked about in the meeting with Paolo in the days immediately before his death. Or to explain why, after phoning my brother to meet him when he was interrogating Gaspare Mutolo [a mafia pentito] just 48 hours before the massacre, he had him meet Police Chief Parisi and Bruno Contrada [a SISDE officer who was later convicted for leaking details of investigations to mafiosi], a meeting that disturbed Paolo so much that he was seen holding two lit cigarettes at the same time ... That meeting surely holds the key to his death and to the massacre of Via D'Amelio.
Investigations held by police telecommunications expert Gioacchino Genchi attested the presence of an undercover SISDE installation in Castello Utveggio, an art nouveau castle on Monte Pellegrino, a mountain overlooking Palermo and Via D'Amelio. This was discovered by analyzing the phone calls of mafia boss Gaetano Scotto, who called a SISDE phone in the castle. Scotto's brother Pietro had done maintenance work on phone lines in Via D'Amelio; it was later discovered that Pietro had tapped Borsellino's mother's phone to obtain confirmation of Borsellino's arrival before the massacre. All trace of SISDE disappeared from Castello Utveggio immediately after the assassination. Mafia boss Totò Riina spoke about the presence of the Italian intelligence service on Monte Pellegrino on 22 May 2004, in the trial relating to the Via dei Georgofili Massacre. In an interview on the Italian state TV documentary show La storia siamo noi (History is Us), Borsellino's wife declared that in the days before the massacre, he had her close the shutters on the windows because "they can observe us from Castello Utveggio".
The first investigations led to the arrest of Vincenzo Scarantino on 26 September 1992, accused by pentiti of having stolen the car used in the explosion. (Scarantino later became a pentito himself.) The magistrates also discovered that the phone of Borsellino's mother had been tapped. A first trial for the massacre ended on 26 January 1996, with Scarantino sentenced to 18 years in prison, while Giuseppe Orofino, Salvatore Profeta and Pietro Scotto, those who prepared the bomb and intercepted the phone, were sentenced to life imprisonment. Scotto and Orofino, however, were acquitted on appeal. A second trial was started in 2002 after Scarantino changed his statements; this time, bosses Riina and Pietro Aglieri were accused of having ordered the massacre. Riina, Aglieri, Salvatore Biondino, Giuseppe Graviano, Carlo Greco, Gaetano Scotto, Francesco Tagliavia, Cosimo Vernengo, Giuseppe La Mattina, Natale Gambino, Lorenzo Tinnirello, Giuseppe Urso and Gaetano Muran were sentenced to life imprisonment. A third trial involved 26 other mafia bosses who had been involved in the massacre in various ways, ending with life sentences for Bernardo Provenzano, Pippo Calò, Michelangelo La Barbera, Raffaele Ganci, Domenico Ganci, Francesco Madonia, Giuseppe Montalto, Filippo Graviano, Cristoforo Cannella, Salvatore Biondo and another Salvatore Biondo.
In 1992 the Italian political world was being shattered by the Mani Pulite (clean hands) corruption scandal, after which most of the parties that had been the traditional political supporters of the mafia would disappear. In 2009 Massimo Ciancimino, son of the mafioso former mayor of Palermo Vito Ciancimino, stated that in those days the Italian establishment and the mafia had been negotiating a pact. Among other things, the agreement would involve the creation of a new party, Forza Italia, with the help of founder Silvio Berlusconi's chief collaborator, Marcello Dell'Utri, who was later convicted of allegiance to the mafia.
After the new revelations, Sicilian attorneys started new investigations based on the hypothesis that Borsellino knew of the negotiations between the mafia, SISDE and senior politicians, and that he was assassinated because of this knowledge. The existence of negotiations between Italian institutions and the Sicilian mafia was confirmed in 2012 by Caltanissetta prosecutor Nico Gozzo as "by now an established fact".
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- Interview of agent Vullo the day after the massacre. (Italian)
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- After the revelation, Genchi was removed from the investigation and the Castello Utveggio case was archived by the Tribunal of Caltanissetta.
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