Bari prosecutor challenges Puglia governor's acquittal

Probe into friendship between judge and governor's sister

Bari prosecutor challenges Puglia governor's acquittal

Bari, March 15 - A prosecutor in the southern Italian city Bari challenged the recent acquittal of Puglia Governor Nichi Vendola, and ex-health board chief, Lea Cosentino, on abuse of office charges, local newspapers reported on Friday. Vendola was cleared in late October, after prosecutors had requested a 20-month prison sentence for him for the allegedly unlawfully appointment of a local chief of surgeons, Paolo Sardelli, at Bari's San Paolo hospital in 2010. The acquittal stirred controversy when two prosecutors working on the probe, Francesco Bretone and Desire' Digeronimo, filed a complaint concerning an alleged friendship between the governor's sister, Patrizia Vendola, and the judge who had issued the acquittal. Lea Cosentino, the former head of the health board in Bari whom Vendola fired in 2010 after she was placed under house arrest during a graft investigation, was also acquitted of abuse of office. Vendola had said the case against him was based solely on testimony from Cosentino. "She is accusing me due to her strong resentment," Vendola said in October. Vendola is leader of the leftwing Left Ecology Freedom (SEL) party, and ran in the Italian parliamentary elections with in an alliance wuth Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the main centre-left Democratic Party (PD). The centre-left coalition narrowly won the largest percentage of the national vote in late February, but with barely 1% more than the centre-right, and an impressive 25% protest vote for the populist anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, rule over the Italian parliament remains deadlocked.

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