Italy mourns seven-time premier Andreotti

'History will be his judge' says President Napolitano

Italy mourns seven-time premier Andreotti

Rome, May 6 - Tributes from across the political spectrum to seven-time Christian Democrat (DC) premier Giulio Andreotti flowed in following the postwar political giant's death on Monday at 94. Andreotti was a constant, extremely high-profile protagonist on Italy's political scene after World War II, Premier Enrico Letta said. Centre-left Letta, a former DC youth leader, said the 94-year-old Andreotti had been "uninterruptedly present" in Italy's postwar institutions. "An actor of extremely high profile for more than 60 years of public life has left us," he said. The Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano, remembered him as someone "who only history can judge". In a message to the controversial ex-premier's family, Napolitano commented on the centrist's "great role" and "lifelong experience" in Italian politics. "I extend the utmost salute of the Republic to a figure who lived through 50 years of Italian history, who played a great role in the country's institutions, and who represented Italy in foreign relations and in the construction of Europe with exceptional continuity," added the president, a former Communist. Former premier Silvio Berlusconi called him "a man of government who made Italian history" and a victim of "an unjust battle" waged by the Italian left. "The left carried out a battle against him unworthy of civil society, based on demonizing the adversary and judicial persecution - an ordeal that Andreotti overcame with dignity and composure," said the center-right leader. Berlusconi, who has long blamed allegedly leftist magistrates for his ongoing legal troubles, was among the most vocally outraged when Andreotti was given a 24-year jail term in 2002 for conspiracy to murder a muckraking journalist, Mino Pecorelli, in 1979. At the time Berlusconi described Andreotti as the victim of a "judicial system gone crazy" and said the judiciary needed to be taken apart and "reconstructed". The State's highest appeals court in October 2003 overturned the murder verdict. The leader of Italy's centrist UDC party remembered Andreotti as "a great figure" he considered a friend while acknowledging his controversial status. "He was a statesman about whom much has been said, good and bad, and history will be a better judge than many of his detractors during his lifetime," said Pier Ferdinando Casini. The small UDC is one of the parties that was formed from the rubble after Andreotti's Christian DC party collapsed during the Bribesville scandals in the early 1990s. Italy's first former Communist premier said Andreotti was "one of the greatest political figures of the postwar era". Acknowledging Andreotti's controversial status, Massimo D'Alema of the center-left Democratic Party said his political adversary nevertheless "helped strengthen our country's international role, thereby contributing significantly to the history of the Republic of Italy". Some voices from Italian politics were more severe. Former anti-corruption prosecutor Antonio Di Pietro said Monday that his death does not cancel out his murky past. "The death of any human being as such commands respect, but respect for his life story is another matter", said Di Pietro, the founder of the centrist Italy of Values (IdV) party, a former minister under the center-left Prodi government and a fierce opponent of former premier Silvio Berlusconi. "That of Giulio Andreotti is written, most of all in the reams of court documents about him, which cannot and must not ever be erased". Di Pietro was echoed by anti-Mafia prosecutor and politician Antonio Ingroia, from the leftist Civic Action party. "His cynical pragmatism led him to make deals with the Mafia. Andreotti, a man of many shadows and little light, may be dead, but his ideology certainly isn't", said Ingroia, who as a prosecutor went after high-level politicians for alleged collusion with the Mafia. Others overlooked his colossal influence on Italian politics in light of other passions, such as soccer. AS Roma captain Francesco Totti said Andreotti, a longtime fan, will continue supporting his beloved hometown club "from Heaven". "I am sure he will continue to support us from Heaven too, with the same passion (he showed) throughout his life," said Totti.

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