Matteo Messina Denaro: Italy's 'Last Godfather' is too sick to stay in prison, lawyers argue

Two handouts picture of Messina Denaro released by ANSA and Carabinieri in January, when the mafia boss was arrested.
Two handouts picture of Messina Denaro released by ANSA and Carabinieri in January, when the mafia boss was arrested. Copyright Handout/ITALIAN CARABINIERI PRESS OFFICE/AFP;Handout/ANSA/AFP
By Giulia CarbonaroAFP
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The Sicilian mafia boss, who was Italy's most wanted man until he was arrested in January, is now too sick to remain in prison, according to his lawyers, who say he should be transferred to a hospital.

Matteo Messina Denaro, once dubbed "the last godfather of the Sicilian mafia", is too sick to remain in prison, according to his lawyers.


The 61-year-old mafia boss was Italy's most wanted man until 16 January, when he was arrested by Italian police in Sicily's town of Campobello di Mazara, where he was hiding almost in plain sight. 

What helped authorities find the elusive "boss of all bosses" was his sickness.

In January, Messina Denaro was questioned by police on his way out of a private clinic, where he had taken an appointment under the false name of Andrea Bonafede - the deceased Mafia boss Leonardo Bonafede's nephew.

For three decades, Messina Denaro avoided doing prison time for his many, bloody crimes - but his sickness is now a reason for the mafia boss to be brought out of prison, his lawyers say. The mafia boss has stage four cancer, according to his lawyers. 

Matteo Messina Denaro being transferred from the Carabinieri police station of San Lorenzo in Palermo, to an undisclosed location after his arrest.Handout/ITALIAN CARABINIERI PRESS OFFICE/AFP

He was operated on for colon cancer in 2020 and 2022, before being arrested. He's now serving a life sentence for a series of murders he either ordered or committed himself between 1991 and 1992.

"Matteo Messina Denaro is now completely incompatible with the prison regime ... and must be immediately recovered in hospital," his lawyer Alessandro Cerella told the Italian news agency AGI.

Messina Denaro has been sentenced to a provision known as "carcere duro" or "harsh prison regime", a measure aimed at controlling Mafia bosses and includes the suspension of normal prison regulations and complete isolation for the detainee. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that his prison regime is comparable to torture.

The Italian prison system has already allowed Messina Denaro to leave prison to receive surgery in a hospital in L'Aquila, in the region of Abruzzo, on 27 June. He was accompanied by a significant number of police officers.

Now, his lawyers want to request Messina Denaro to be permanently transferred to the L'Aquila hospital. They say that the mafia boss' sickness has become increasingly serious, to the point that he can no longer eat but only consume fruit juices and food supplements.

Messina Denaro is currently been treated in an ad hoc room created next to his cell in the prison he's detained in in Abruzzo.

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