Rome

Italian supreme court rules against State in Ustica crash

'Must pay damages to families of 81 victims'

Italian supreme court rules against State in Ustica crash

Rome, January 28 - A fatal domestic plane crash in Italy over 30 years ago was caused by a missile, and the State must pay damages to the families of all 81 victims for not guaranteeing the safety of the skies, Italy's supreme Court of Cassation ruled in civil proceedings Monday. The ruling, which faulted civil and military radar systems, is the first definitive sentence since criminal proceedings were inconclusive. 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 Mediterranean on its way from Bologna to Palermo. International panels who examined the wreckage in the past had arrived at differing conclusions: One said the plane had been hit by a missile, while another thought a bomb had been planted aboard the craft - another terrorist act similar to what was carried out with even greater loss of life at Bologna train station later that summer. Magistrates and victims' relatives have suspected that 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 United States 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. Whatever the truth of the matter, it may only come out when NATO records are declassified in years to come, many of the theorists say. Italy's many conspiracy theorists have also pointed to a suspiciously high mortality rate among air force staff and other people linked to the case, with four committing suicide by hanging. Another died of a heart attack at the age of 37. In 2007, two former air force generals were definitively acquitted on charges of covering up the truth about the crash.

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