A notorious Sicilian mafia figure known as “U Scannacristiani” or “The People-Slayer” has been released from prison, sparking outrage in Italy.
Giovanni Brusca, 64, confessed to murdering more than 100 people, including Giuseppe Di Matteo, the 14-year-old son of a Mafia informant.
Di Matteo was kidnapped and held for almost two years before being strangled to death and his remains dissolved in acid because his father allegedly collaborated with police, Brusca told authorities.
Arrested in May 1996, the following year, Brusca was sentenced to 26 years for the murder of Giovanni Falcone, a prominent anti-Mafia judge, whom he killed with a remote bomb in 1992.
Download the NBC News app for the latest news and politics
The assassination of Falcone, followed two months later by that of his fellow anti-mafia magistrate Paolo Borsellino, was one of the most notorious episodes in Italy’s long and violent fight against organized crime.
Brusca was also sentenced to 30 years for the murder of Di Matteo in 1999.
Facing a life behind bars, the following year he agreed to work with prosecutors and confessed to over 100 murders in exchange for a reduced sentence.
He also provided investigators with information about several deadly Cosa Nostra attacks in the 1980s and 1990s and testified at a trial about alleged negotiations between Italian officials and Mafiosi to stop the attacks.
Although her release is long overdue, she has been criticized by Italian politicians and the families of her victims, including Falcone’s sister.
Maria Falcone said she feared the release of “an individual capable of so much evil” in a statement posted on the Facebook page of the Giovanni Falcone Foundation, an anti-mafia organization launched in memory of her brother.
Although her brother would have wanted the law – and therefore Brusca’s release – to be observed, she said, the families of Brusca’s victims would have had to face “the pain, anger and fear that one individual capable of so much evil may return to crime.
She added that not enough was known about her initial “collaboration with justice” and was “full of shadows”.
Luciano Traina, who arrested Brusca after losing his brother and his fellow police officer to mafia violence, told Italian newspaper La Repubblica that he would “never forgive” him.
Political leaders, including former Italian prime minister and leader of the center-left Democratic Party, Enrico Letta, have also criticized Brusca’s release. Letto told RTL 102.5 radio station the news was “a punch in the stomach.”
Former interior minister and leader of the far-right League party Matteo Salvini wrote on Facebook that this was “not the justice Italians deserve”.
However, the Italian anti-mafia chief prosecutor, Federico Cafiero De Raho, urged people to remember that he had collaborated with the authorities.
“Let us not forget that he gave information about bombings both in Sicily and in mainland Italy,” he told Reuters.