Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Berlusconi Backs Spy Chief In Espionage Scandal


ROME (Reuters) - Italy's prime minister has intervened to defend a former spy chief accused of being part of an illegal espionage ring, in a twist to a case that drew in Italy's top telecoms firm and embarrassed the secret service.

The case first shocked Italy in 2006, when employees at former monopoly Telecom Italia and parent group Pirelli were arrested in a probe into a spy ring suspected of snooping on Italy's elite by using data from phone records.

Among others arrested was Marco Mancini, a former No. 2 official in the military intelligence agency SISMI. At his preliminary hearing in November, Mancini refused to answer questions, saying doing so would violate state secrecy laws.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wrote to the judge confirming that "state secret" issues existed in the case, his office said.

Secret service units and their relations with other groups on their activities are given maximum protection under the law, Berlusconi's office said in a statement.


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