Italy's Sanremo recalls victims of Mafia bombings 30 years ago

Saviano pays tribute to murdered anti-Mafia judges Falcone and Borsellino and state's witness Rita Atria.

The Sanremo Music Festival, Italy's top song contest, paid tribute on Thursday night to the victims of the Capaci and Via d'Amelio Mafia bombings whose 30th anniversaries occur this year.

Writer Roberto Saviano - who has been under police protection since 2006 after his book Gommorah exposed the dealings of the Neapolitan Camorra - was a special guest of the five-night festival which is televised live to millions of Italians.

Before introducing Saviano, the Sanremo presenter Amadeus listed the names of the victims of the bombings, including anti-Mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, to a standing ovation from the audience.

Falcone and Borsellino spent most of their distinguished professional careers as judges and prosecuting magistrates trying to overthrow the power of the Sicilian Mafia.

Saviano began his monologue by underlining that the story of the two judges is about those who "choose while knowing they are taking risks".

Saviano recalled that, accused of seeking attention by "haters", Falcone and Borsellino had been "discredited" to "create distrust in those who were on their side."

"Today they are celebrated as heroes but this was not the case when they were alive", said Saviano, recalling that the judges faced accusations of "sensationalising" their work with sirens and police escorts.

However, he said: "The Mafia has not managed to tarnish the example of their courageous choices."

"Their story is part of the collective memory, for all of us they are symbols of courage, courage is a choice", said Saviano, who added that choosing to stay neutral "only ends up making one an accomplice."

Falcone was assassinated by the Corleonesi Mafia in a bombing on the A29 motorway near the town of Capaci on 23 May 1992. Falcone's wife and three police officers were also killed in the blast.

57 days later, Borsellino was killed by a car bomb on Via d'Amelio in Palermo, along with five police officers, on 19 July.

Saviano also recalled the story of Rita Atria, the late sister-in-law of Piera Aiello who today is a politician with the populist Movimento 5 Stelle after having lived undercover for years due to her stand against the Mafia.

Rita Atria

At 17 years of age Atria had decided to become a witness of justice in a major Mafia investigation in Sicily, following the murder of her brother Nicola in 1991. Her father was murdered in 1985 when she was 11.

Following in the footsteps of Aiello, she placed her trust in Borsellino - who became a father figure to her - and she was moved to a guarded safe-house in a secret location in Rome.

One week after the Via d'Amelio bombing she killed herself by jumping out the window of the seventh-floor apartment building.

Saviano concluded his Sanremo speech by reading a passage from an essay dedicated to Falcone, written by Atria a few weeks before her suicide.

"With Falcone's death, those men wanted to say that they will always win. The only way to eliminate this scourge is to convince young people that outside there is another world. Perhaps, an honest world will never exist, but who stops us from dreaming. Perhaps, if each of us tries to change. Perhaps, we can make it."