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Proposal to remove children from Mafia homes widely attacked

February 19, 1997

ROME (AP) _ After being attacked by lawyers, fellow politicians and the Roman Catholic Church, a Sicilian mayor said he was merely seeking to provoke a debate with his proposal that the government remove children from Mafioso parents.

The idea was launched by Mayor Giuseppe Cipriani of Corleone, Sicily, the hilltown that is home to the Cosa Nostra’s alleged ``boss of bosses,″ Salvatore ``Toto″ Riina, who was arrested four years ago after two decades as a fugitive.

His son, Giovanni Riina, 21, was convicted last week of Mafia association and given a 4 1/2-year prison sentence.

``You can’t ask a son to deny his father, even if the father is the most savage criminal,″ Cipriani said in an interview published Monday by the leftist daily L’Unita.

``If your family won’t agree to collaborate in protecting your still innocent children, the state can take them away from you,″ the mayor said.

Leadership in many crime clans in southern Italy, especially in Sicily, is often passed down from father to son.

``It would be an element of strong pressure on families which would think twice about not collaborating,″ the mayor said.

Cipriani’s proposal immediately stirred criticism and doubts.

``You can’t take away from parents the responsibility to educate″ children, said Marco Lora of the Italian Bishops’ Conference’s family office.

The Rev. Giacomo Ribaudo, a parish priest in the Mafia’s Palermo stronghold, agreed. ``If the children remain with their father, even if he’s a boss, there’s always the hope of conversion,″ Ribaudo said.

Luigi Li Gotti, a lawyer who has defended many Mafiosi who have decided in recent years to cooperate with authorities, said the mayor’s idea was unconstitutional and violates human rights.

After the barrage of criticism, the mayor said he was only trying to come up with ideas on how to break the Mafia’s hold over families. ``I wasn’t really proposing that they be taken away,″ he told Milan’s Corriere della Sera.

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