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article imageEx Italy rail bosses sentenced over 2009 disaster

By AFP     Jan 31, 2017 in Crime

Mauro Moretti, the former head of Italian railways, was Tuesday among a string of executives sentenced provisionally to prison terms over a 2009 freight train disaster that killed 32 people.

The tragedy in the Tuscan port of Viareggio was Italy's deadliest rail accident in over 30 years and remains the country's worst of the 21st Century.

The executives were held responsible for poor infrastructure and risk-avoidance systems deemed to have contributed to a freight train carrying liquid petroleum gas derailing and exploding.

The full extent of their liability and the judges' assessment of where exactly the blame lies will not be known until a written verdict is published at a later date.

Moretti -- one of Italy's most prominent industrialists and the current boss of defence and aerospace group Leonardo -- was found guilty of manslaughter and causing multiple injuries and sentenced to seven years in prison.

But, like the 22 others convicted, he will not serve any of it before at least the first of two possible appeals have been heard.

That could take years and there is a strong chance the charges could time out before a definitive conviction can be obtained.

Moretti was one of 33 charged with a range of charges including causing a disaster in connection with the explosion on June 29, 2009.

The force of the blast, which occurred as the train was leaving Viareggio station, brought down two small blocks of flats, where many of the fatalities lived.

Mauro Moretti is one of Italy's most prominent industrialists  and headed the state railways fr...
Mauro Moretti is one of Italy's most prominent industrialists, and headed the state railways from 2006-14
TIZIANA FABI, AFP/File

Relatives of the casualties briefly applauded after the verdicts were pronounced in court in front of empty chairs adorned by T-shirts printed with images of each of the victims.

"We are still the ones who have had the heaviest sentences," said Claudio Menichetti, whose daughter Emanuela, 21, died from burns 42 days after the disaster.

"We have already been given a life sentence," he told La Repubblica.

Neither Moretti or Michele Mario Elia, another top rail executive who was given a seven years, six months sentence, were in court to hear the verdicts.

Prosecutors had requested 16 years for Moretti and 15 for Elia. Not all charges against them were upheld.

Moretti, 63, has been in charge of Leonardo since May 2014. He was Italian State Railways (FS) boss from 2006-14.

The court did not issue an explanation for its 10 acquittals.

The court proceedings and Moretti's conviction hit Leonardo shares which closed down 2.3 percent in Milan.

The company, formerly called Finmeccanica, is best known for its helicopter production.

The Viareggio tragedy was the worst rail accident in Italy since two high-speed trains collided south of Bologna in April 1978, leaving 50 people dead.

Another collision, in the southern region of Puglia in July of last year, left 23 dead.

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