In recent weeks, nearly 3,000 prisoners were able to return to their homes under the rules issued to reduce the number of people detained for the duration of the coronavirus emergency. Of these, 370 are prominent members of organized crime
A prisoner sentenced to life in prison for the kidnapping and murder of the son of a repentant gangster obtained house arrest for the risk of coronavirus, a decision of the Italian justice that caused outrage in Italy.
Cataldo Franco, an 85-year-old man with health problems, left the Opera prison, near Milan, on April 28 and returned home to Geraci Siculo, in Sicily, out of fear that he might catch Covid-19. The request for house arrest was submitted by the prison management.
The man was serving a life sentence for holding Giuseppe Di Matteo, a boy murdered in 1996 by Cosa Nostra in retaliation against his father, a gangster who had decided to repent and collaborate with Justice, for two months in 1994 .
That murder shocked public opinion in Italy and is remembered as one of the most heinous crimes committed by the Sicilian mafia.
Giuseppe Di Matteo Di Matteo was kidnapped in 1994 by four gangsters disguised as policemen , shortly before his 13th birthday. In the early stages of the kidnapping, the boy was held captive on Franco’s farm. The man held him hostage for about two months, until the olive harvest season came and he had to “return” the boy because he needed the shed that served as a cell, he told investigators.
The kidnapping was decided by the Corleonesi clan led by Totò Riina and by the brothers Giovanni and Enzo Brusca to punish Santino Di Matteo , Giuseppe’s father who had become a collaborator of justice. Giuseppe Di Matteo was held prisoner for 26 months, until he was strangled and his body dissolved in acid.
By Brusca’s order, the kidnappers contacted their grandfather through a brochure: “You must go to your son and tell us that, if he wants to save the boy, he must drop the accusations against those characters, he must finish causing problems” . The same day, the repentant had a conversation with his wife, which was intercepted, in which the woman asked the man not to speak about the attack that in 1992 killed Paolo Borsellino, one of the most famous anti-mafia judges, considered a hero for citizenship.
The proprio Giovanni Brusca, who in turn repented after his capture, told magistrates the end of Di Matteo horrendous. In July 2018, the Palermo civil court awarded the victim’s mother compensation of 2.2 million euros, paid by the main heads of the Sicilian mafia.
The release of Cataldo Franco occurs within the framework of the rules issued to reduce the number of people detained for the duration of the coronavirus emergency.
In recent weeks, 2,917 prisoners have benefited from house arrest for health reasons. 746 of these were forced to wear the electronic bracelet. Some 370 are prominent members of organized crime detained under a high-security regime.
Three were imprisoned under the toughest security regime (known as “41 bis”) and are well-known figures: they are Pasquale Zagaria, a terminally ill Camorra Neapolitan mafia boss, the gangster Francesco Bonura and Vincenzo Iannazzo , boss of the Calabrian mafia ‘ndrangheta.
The granting of house arrest to members of organized crime has become a controversial topic for a few weeks in Italy , the second country in Europe hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
This Tuesday, Matteo Salvini , leader of the far-right League and main leader of the opposition, described the measure as “an insult to the memory of little Giuseppe Di Matteo, of all the victims of the mafia and their families.”
Justice Minister Alfonso Bonafede said the decision to release the prisoners is made by the judges “autonomously and independently.” This Tuesday, he assured that “after the health emergency has passed” they will be able to return to their cells. Meanwhile, he has established a working group to examine the matter and issue a decree that could postpone decisions made by judges.
The government decree “Cura Italia”, issued to deal with the coronavirus emergency, established that, in order to reduce the prison population, detainees convicted of minor crimes and with less than 18 months to deduct from the sentence, could receive the benefit of house arrest . The rule excluded gangsters.
However, the prison department asked the heads of prisons to report on all prisoners over 70 , and with health problems, so that judges could decide on a case-by-case basis.
The prison administration also recommended to prison directors that detainees at risk should also be informed to the national anti-mafia prosecutor’s office, in order to provide supervisory judges with any other elements of evaluation before deciding whether to send them to house arrest or not. A precaution that was later included in the decree of law approved by the government last week.