Rome

Former Lazio governor Storace acquitted of election fraud

Appeals court calls charges 'unfounded' in 2005 Mussolini case

Former Lazio governor Storace acquitted of election fraud

Rome, October 29 - Former Lazio governor Francesco Storace and seven others were acquitted on appeal Monday of dirty tricks in his 2005 regional re-election campaign. Storace was appealing a suspended 18-month sentence for a bid to undermine right-wing rival Alessandra Mussolini's run. At the time Storace was a top member of the rightist National Alliance (AN), which has since merged with ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party to form the larger centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party. Storace left the new party shortly before the merger to form a new, small, hard-right party, La Destra (The Right). In 2010 a Rome judge found that Storace had tried to sabotage Mussolini's campaign by having her declared guilty of electoral registration malpractice. Storace, who served as health minister in Berlusconi's government after Storace's 2005 defeat to the centre left, was found guilty of ordering a computer break-in to tamper with Mussolini's election petition. The court on Monday said the charges were "unfounded". "Seven years of living hell and today we find that the case, for which I stepped down as health minister and that cost me the race in Lazio, is unfounded," said a visibly moved Storace. Laziomatica, a company which answered to Storace's regional administration, was found to have hacked into the computer archives of Rome city hall and accessed hundreds of names on Mussolini's election petition. An ex-director of Laziomattica and Storace's ex-spokesman Nicolo' Accame were among the acquitted. Alessandra Mussolini, Benito Mussolini's granddaughter, after leading a small hard-right party like Storace's, confirmed Friday she would run in primaries to be the PdL's premier candidate after Berlusconi said he would not run in next year's elections. In what was called the 'Laziogate' scandal, more than 800 signatures on Mussolini's petition were declared fraudulent. The list included names of the deceased and others whose existence was dubious, such as people who gave their birth date as February 31. Mussolini was eventually allowed to take part in the election but Rome prosecutors opened an inquiry into the case that came to trial in 2007. The man who beat Storace in 2005, Piero Marrazzo of the Democratic Party (PD), resigned in disgrace in 2009 after it emerged that rogue cops tried to blackmail him with a video featuring a transsexual prostitute. Lazio, the region around Rome, returned to centre-right control in 2010 when the PdL's Renata Polverini narrowly beat the PD's Emma Bonino. Polverini stepped down in September after the regional caucus leader Franco Fiorito was arrested for alleged embezzlement.

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