Company owners convicted of causing over 3,000 asbestos-related deaths in Italy say they will appeal the verdict.
In a court in the northern Italian city of Turin, the Swiss billionaire former owner of Eternit, Stephan Schmidheiny, was found guilty of negligence and sentenced to 16 years in prison even though he did not appear.
Public prosecutor for Turin Raffaele Guariniello was happy with the ruling: “This verdict gives us all the right to dream, not only in Italy, but all over the world. The right to dream about the fact that justice can be done and must be done,” Guariniello said.
Victims in other countries may feel some hope following the Italian verdict.
The court handed down the same 16 year sentence to a Belgian aristocrat – the now-bankrupt company’s largest shareholder.
Bruno Pesce coordinator of a victims’ group called ‘Vertenza Amianto’ said: “This is a big change. Even a very powerful person, or a very important person can cause thousands of deaths. Should we ignore it?”
Romana Blasotti Pavesi, president of the asbestos families victims association said: “We realise that it’s not over, there still are sick people and victims. The clearing has not been completed yet. The research is uncertain so we must go on.”
Eternit had employees at four plants in Italy, where they did unprotected work with asbestos until the 1980s.
The verdict in this Eternit trial paves the way for a second trial, the so-called “Eternit-2”. The panel in Turin has already begun working on it.
The defendants will be the same, but this new trial aims to hold them accountable for the more recent deaths caused by asbestos.