Pescara, July 22 - While former Abruzzo Governor Ottaviano Del Turco admitted Monday that he had ''lost hope'' before he received a prison sentence of more than nine years in a bribery case, colleagues quickly rallied to his cause. ''I was and remain convinced of the innocence of Ottaviano Del Turco, to which I express closeness and friendship,'' said Daniele Capezzone, who heads the House finance committee and is a coordinator of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party. He spoke after an Italian court sentenced Del Turco to nine years, six months in prison for involvement in the exchange of health-sector bribes. The judge initially mis-read the sentence as nine years and nine months before it was later corrected to nine years and six month. Outside his home in Collelongo, Del Turco reacted quietly. With his son Guido by his side, Del Turco admitted to reporters that he had ''lost hope'' when the prosecutor requested a 12-year jail term. Del Turco, a former Socialist trade union leader and ex-finance minister, was arrested with nine others five years ago on charges of fraud, corruption, embezzlement and money laundering involving some 14 million euros. Prosecutors said Del Turco took bribes of almost six million euros. ''I can not come to terms with the sentence...Even before despair and bitterness, I have a feeling of absolute disbelief,'' said Giuliano Cazzola, a former trade unionist and friend of Del Turco. After a career in trade unions, Del Turco rose to the top of Bettino Craxìs Socialist Party before it was swept away in the Bribesville scandals of 1992-94. He stayed in the centre left and served as head of parliament's anti-mafia commission between 1996 and 2000, when he was named finance minister. He stayed in the post for just over a year.