In an unprecedented move, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has given evidence in a major anti-Mafia trial.
Tuesday’s hearing took place privately in a large hall at the presidential palace in Rome.
Prosecutors said they wanted to know whether the 89-year-old knew about secret talks between the Italian state and the Sicilian Mafia in the 1990s.
Among 10 defendants in the case is former interior minister Nicola Mancino, who is accused of negotiating with the Mafia, which he denies.
The early 1990s were a rocky period in Italian history where several Mafia-linked assassinations and bombings took place including the murder of anti-Mafia judge Giovanni Falcone.
Former godfather Salvatore Riina, known as ‘The Beast’, is also on trial. He is already serving life in prison for Falcone’s killing and several other crimes.
Journalist Salvo Palazzolo, who has written several books about the Mafia, thinks this goes right to the top.
“Riina wanted to lead an attack against the state to force them to make a deal. This is at the core of the investigation. According to prosecutors, there were men in [government] institutions that delivered his threat to the highest level of the Italian establishment,” he said.
The president is not accused of any crime, but was asked to give evidence after his late legal advisor referred to “unspeakable agreements” in a letter to him and implied that Napolitano had known about the talks.
Reporting from Rome, euronews correspondent Sabrina Pisu, said: “The court has accepted the president’s deposition. It’s an unprecedented court case, not only because it’s the first time a head of state has agreed to testify, but also because of the kind of trial and the seriousnes of the alleged crimes. Journalists were not allowed into the presidential palace, so it’ll be some time before we’ll know what exactly was said in his statement.”