Italy’s highest court on Thursday overturned a murder conviction against former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, ruling that he was not guilty of charges that he had ordered the Mafia killing of a journalist.
The Court of Cassation annulled a verdict by a lower court last November that had convicted the seven-time prime minister and sentenced him to 24 years in prison.
“It’s all over now,” said Andreotti, 84, a life senator who has held nearly every position in Italy short of the presidency in his 60-year political career.
“Some people hoped I would never live to see this day, but I survived,” he said.
Andreotti’s lawyers took the case to the top court after an appeals court in the central city of Perugia had overturned an initial not guilty verdict and found him guilty of ordering the 1979 killing of scandal-sheet journalist Mino Pecorelli.
Both government and opposition politicians denounced the Perugia sentence as a travesty of justice.
The prosecution at the first two trials said Andreotti wanted the Mafia to kill Pecorelli because the journalist was preparing a political expose.
Pecorelli was shot dead in Rome.
A panel of three judges ruled there was no evidence to back up the accusations.
Andreotti had not been in prison during his appeal.
He also has been cleared of Mafia charges at two trials in Palermo, where he had been accused of protecting the mob while he was a mover and shaker in Rome’s corridors of power.
Part of the Palermo verdict has been appealed to the same court that cleared Andreotti on Thursday.
Thursday’s ruling was a personal vindication for Andreotti, a devout Catholic who goes to Mass every day and has been a friend of every pope since World War II.
It was also a severe blow to the credibility of turncoat Mafiosi, and lawyers said it could have repercussions on other cases in which their testimony was taken as true.