Venerdì, 19 Ottobre 2018
ROME

President calls for truth over Ustica disaster

English
© ANSA

(By Denis Greenan).
Rome, June 27 - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano
on Thursday called on investigators inside and outside Italy to
get to the bottom of a deadly plane crash whose causes have been
disputed for more than 30 years.
Investigators "around the world", he said, must keep digging
for the truth, hidden by years of cover-ups, behind the 1980
disaster off the southern island of Ustica that claimed 81
lives.
"The memory of that tragic night and the innocent victims
of the disaster underline the duty of all institutions to
support ongoing investigations to ascertain responsibility -
national and international - that remained covered by disturbing
shadows and opacity," Napolitano said on the 33rd anniversary of
the unexplained crash.
The president also gave his condolences to the victims'
families, led by association chief Daria Bonfetti, and praised
the "constant dedication" with which they work to uncover the
truth about the crash, which some have suggested was caused by a
rogue missile.
The association of relatives joined officials in urging the
government to ratify a convention on judicial cooperation in
criminal probes that they said would "give a major boost to
efforts to get to the truth".
Bologna Mayor Virginio Merola called for an "immediate"
meeting with "senior cabinet officials".
Ratifying the convention "could breathe new life into the
investigations on what happened at Ustica," said Merola.
Over the years, Italy has sought information from the
United States, France, Belgium and Germany.
In 2008 prosecutors reopened investigations after former
Italian president Francesco Cossiga suggested that a French
missile had shot down the plane by mistake.
Cossiga did not explain at the time why he had waited so
long before giving his views.
Dossiers, books, and even a film called The Rubber Wall
have been produced over the years about the mystery-shrouded
night of June 27, 1980 when a domestic airliner, belonging to
the now-defunct Itavia line, crashed into the sea on its way
from Bologna to Palermo.
Two international panels examined the wreckage.
One concluded the plane had been hit by a missile, while
another thought a bomb had been planted aboard the craft in a
terrorist act similar to that carried out with even greater loss
of life at Bologna train station later that summer.
But investigating magistrate Rosario Priore and the
prosecutors who have succeeded him insisted they had found clear
evidence of flight tracks being tampered with and radar scans
cleaned up to remove all trace of other planes in the vicinity
of the Itavia jet.
Magistrates and victims' relatives think the plane may have
become caught in a dogfight between NATO planes and a Libyan jet
whose wreckage was found in the southern Italian highlands some
months after the Ustica crash.
Italy has repeatedly asked NATO, and in particular the US
and France, for full cooperation in clearing up the incident.
According to reconstructions of the event contained in
fictitious accounts, the Libyan jet hid under the Itavia jet and
a NATO missile hit the wrong target.
The truth may only come out when NATO records are
declassified in years to come, many of the theorists say.
Senate Speaker Pietro Grasso echoed Napolitano in a message
to the association of victims' relatives Thursday.
"Many parts of this painful affair are still murky and all
the responsibility is still not clear," said the former national
anti-mafia prosecutor.
The commemoration was marked by further controversy after
the state attorney's office said it was weighing an appeal
against recent compensation for three Ustica relatives,
amounting to 1.2 million euros each.
The major government partner, the centre-left Democratic
Party, said it was "disconcerted" by the possible move.

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