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Huge 'mega-trial' convicts 70 members of Italy's biggest mafia group

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By Philip Andrew Churm  with AFP
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Huge 'mega-trial' convicts 70 members of Italy's biggest mafia group
Copyright  Gianfranco Stara/AP

The Italian judiciary has dealt a heavy blow to Italy's most powerful mafia group - the 'Ndrangheta - by convicting 70 of its members and others with links to it.

It is the biggest mafia trial since the late 1980s.

The verdicts against 91 defendants were read out in a large courtroom, where a "mega-trial" of hundreds of alleged 'Ndrangheta members has been taking place.

Anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri - whose efforts to defeat the 'Ndrangheta forced him to live under police protection for more than 30 years - said everything had gone well.

"We have an important sentence. Ninety-one defendants, 70 presumed guilty convicted, two prescribed and 19 acquitted," he said.

"I am not afraid of anything or anyone. I always say what I think and if I can`'t tell the truth it`s because I can't prove it.

"There are no problems".

Some of those convicted received the maximum 20-year sentence requested by prosecutors.

They include Domenico Macri of the group's military wing, Pasquale Gallone, the right-hand man of alleged mafia boss Luigi Mancuso, whose trial is still underway, and Gregorio Niglia, whose role included procuring weapons and extortion.

About a third of the group has been sentenced to 10 years or more and 21 people have been acquitted, Gratteri said.

Of the eight for whom the prosecution had sought 20 years in prison, six received the full sentence, including Pasquale Gallone, 62, who helped orchestrate his boss's three-year run from 2014, two years after Luigi Mancuso was released from prison after spending 19 years there.

Trials of members and collaborators of the 'Ndrangheta organised crime syndicate have been taking place since January.

Those newly convicted had opted for a quick trial behind closed doors, which allowed them to have their sentences reduced by a third if they were convicted.

There are 355 defendants still to be tried, with proceedings expected to last two years or more.