Former Italian politicians, policemen and gangsters have gone on trial in Sicily accused of making secret deals following a series of bomb attacks in the 1990s.
Ten people including the then interior minister, Nicola Mancino, are in the dock and prominent figures such as President Giorgio Napolitano will be called as witnesses.
Prosecutors allege that the state agreed to be lenient with the Mafia, allowing for fewer trials and easier prison conditions in exchange for an end to their violent campaign.
But on Monday Mancino protested at being tried alongside Mafia bosses like the infamous Toto Riina.
“The ones who have committed violent acts against the state are the others, they can defend themselves, they might even be cleared, but in any case I’m not one of them. You all (journalists) are looking at me, Nicola Mancino, but I am charged with false testimony, which is a minor crime, serious, but a minor one,” complained Mancino.
The hearing was adjourned until Friday. Anti-mafia activists heckled Mancino as he came out of the courtroom.
Twenty years ago the Mafia was in a virtual war against the Italian state. There were bombings in major cities and two leading anti-Mafia judges were assassinated.
Allegations that the state gave in to the Mafia to restore calm have yet to be proved in a case which is expected to last for years.