January 18, 2008 / 8:46 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 2-Sicily's governor gets five years in mob trial

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PALERMO, Sicily, Jan 18 (Reuters) - An Italian court sentenced Sicily’s governor to five years in prison on Friday for helping people linked to the Mafia and divulging confidential information about anti-mob investigations.

But the court in the Sicilian capital Palermo found the regional governor, a member of the centre-right opposition, not guilty on more serious charges of aiding and abetting the Mafia.

Salvatore Cuffaro, who was also barred from holding public office, said he was “very comforted” by the sentence since it did not accuse him of direct links with organised crime.

He denies all charges, saying he did not know at the time that the people he was helping were linked to the Mafia. He plans to appeal.

Cuffaro told reporters after the verdict that he did not intend to resign. In Italy sentences are generally enforced only once the appeals process has been exhausted.

“I’ve said for a year that I would resign only if sentenced on aiding and abetting,” Cuffaro said. “What I will do ... is start work again for Sicily from tomorrow, because the (region’s) government cannot remain in this state of impasse.”

Prosecutors had accused Cuffaro of being part of a group that indirectly helped the Sicilian Mafia — locally called “Cosa Nostra” — by leaking confidential information on anti-mob investigations and had sought eight years in prison.

Leftist lawmakers called for Cuffaro’s resignation, but some opposition lawmakers defended him and said the lack of a direct connection to the Mafia should be taken as a positive sign.

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi — who has rallied to Cuffaro’s defence in the past — telephoned the governor to express his solidarity, news agencies reported. (Reporting by Wladimir Pantaleone, edited by Jon Boyle)

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