During his career in the Sicilian Mafia, Giovanni Brusca was known as the “scannacristiani,” or “people-slayer.”
After he was arrested in 1996, the mobster confessed to playing a role in more than 100 killings, including the murder of a 14-year-old boy who was dissolved in acid because his father had been an informant. Now, Brusca is free – and his parole has sparked outrage in some quarters across Italy.
“This is not the ‘justice’ that Italians deserve,” said Matteo Salvini, head of the right-wing League party. Enrico Letta, the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, described Brusca’s release as “a punch in the stomach.”
Brusca, 64, was released from jail Monday after serving a 25-year sentence. While in prison, he became an informant whose testimony helped the government to crack down on the Cosa Nostra organised crime network and led to numerous arrests. Collaborating with prosecutors allowed Brusca to avoid a life sentence, according to Il Riformista.
As a prominent member of the Cosa Nostra, Brusca had been responsible for some of the group’s most infamous crimes. In 1992, he detonated a road bomb that killed Giovanni Falcone, a judge who had devoted his life to prosecuting the mafia, along with his wife and three bodyguards.
Falcone’s sister, Maria, told Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper that she was “pained” by the news but understood that Brusca had served his time. Relatives of other victims expressed more indignation, telling the paper that the “people-slayer” should have been given a longer sentence.
Nicola Di Matteo, whose 14-year-old brother Giuseppe was killed and dissolved in acid, noted the irony of Brusca himself becoming an informant. She suggested that Italy should rethink “this system that rewards all government collaborators, even those responsible for massacres and hundreds of murders.”
Law enforcement officials have argued that offering reduced sentences to informants is a crucial tool for prosecutors seeking to crackdown on organised crime. But politicians are now questioning whether the law needs to be reformed so that someone who has committed as many crimes as Brusca cannot evade a life sentence, La Repubblica reported.
“He has collaborated with justice only to get the benefits,” Rosaria Costa, whose husband was killed in the bombing that killed Giovanni Falcone, told newspaper Corriere della Sera.