Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

An Italian Socrates? Bruno Contrada and the mafia

Over the Christmas period, coincidentally when the newspapers were not published’grazia’, or early release, for his client, on humanitarian grounds. Contrada is an ageing and apparently ill man.

The former police chief of Palermo, and later leading light in SISDE – one of Italy’s secret services, is currently serving a ten year sentence for collusion with the Mafia.

Contrada was transferred from prison on Friday to undergo tests in a civilian hospital, but yesterday announced that he was not looking for the ‘grazia’ and wished to return to prison. His lawyer, setting up a paragon with Plato’s description of Socrates, said: “Despite everything Contrada continues to be a man of law and of the state. It’s remarkable, he has an amazing dignity, culture and intelligence”.

Coverage of Contrada’s clemency case has focussed primarily on his health, rather than the charges for which he was convicted. This man of ‘law and the state’ was long suspected of collusion by anti-mafia investigators working in Palermo. In 1992 Contrada was arrested and charged with three specific incidents where it was alleged that he had tipped off the mafia about police raids – including one where Mafia boss Toto Riina escaped capture (Co-incidentally, Riina was finally captured by the police in January of 1993). Giovanni Falcone, according to his colleague Ignazio De Francisci, suspected Contrada of involvement in a failed assasination attempt on his life2.

It should be remembered that during the period when Contrada was accused of collusion, the mafia went ahead not only with its mundane ordinary business of extortion, drug dealing, prostitution, and assasination, but also indulged itself with a full on war against the state, with political assasinations and car bombings against famous targets like the Uffizi gallery in Firenze which killed civilians.

Rita Borsellino, the sister of the assasinated anti-mafia judge Paolo Borsellino, has expressed her dismay at the seeming rush to release Contrado, as have numerous associations set up by the victims of mafia violence. Borsellino has been accused by the family of Contrada of reacting in an inhuman way to this case of human suffering.

In an interview with La Repubblica, Contrada’s wife spoke of her husband as an innocent man who deserves to be released to die at home, though for the record Contrada was found guilty of collusion with the mafia after appeal, and his medical condition (primarily diabetes) can be treated in Hospital just as well as at home. On the same pages Attilio Bolzoni, who interviewed Contrada on a number of occasions, quoted Contrada – the innocent – as having said “Someone want’s to make it seem as if I was the only wone in Italy to have made a pact with the mafia”3.

Mrs Contrada has appealed to the President to not let her husband suffer the final indignity of dying in Prison.

Rita Borsellino’s measured response puts the issue perfectly in context: “Bruno Contrada was a servant of the state that betrayed it and for this was condemned to ten years in prison. There are servants of the state, like my brother, that knowingly sacrificed their lives and did not die in their beds”4.

The last word on the matter should come at some stage in January from President Napolitano, who decides whether a case merits a ‘grazia’ or not. It’ll be an interesting signal in that other war against terror, one way or the other…

1 “Nonostante tutto Contrada continua ad essere un uomo di Legge e di Stato. E’ davvero impressionante, ha una dignità favolosa, ne apprezzo la cultura e l’intelligenza” – Contrada/legale E’ come Socrate – Alice Notizie
2 Excellent Cadavers – Alexander Stille [Pg 285]
3 “Qualcuno vuol far credere che a fare patti con la mafia in Italia sia stato solo io…” – Voci, accuse e condanne, l’onore perduto del ‘dottore’ – La Repubblica [27/12/07]
4 “Guardi, Bruno Contrada era un servitore dello Stato che ha tradito e per questo e’ stato condannato a dieci anni di carcere. Ci sono servitori dello stato come mio fratello, che hanno consapevolmente sacrificato la loro vita e che nei loro lett non sono morti” – Rita Borsellino – La Repubblica [27/12/07]