The courtroom in Turin was crowded. People had to wait on their feet until the judge finished to read the sentence. They were asbestos victims relatives, ex-workers, doctors, environmental activists, people living in cities and villages were Eternit had its plants. 1500 people from all over Italy, but also from abroad, participated to an historical sentence that will certainly influence other trials currently in progress in other countries against the multinational company Eternit.
The accused have to answer for 2889 asbestos related deaths and the civil accusers are about 4500: victims relatives, but also unions, environmental associations, local institutions and more. After a 30 years struggle and a 2 years trial, the sentence is an important victory: 16 years of prison for Stephan Schmidheiny and Jean Louis De Cartier, Eternit owners. They have been found guilty for permanent and intentional disaster and for intentional omission of security measures in relation with the crimes committed in Casale Monferrato and Cavagnolo (both in Piemonte). Unfortunately, due to time-barred the criminal proceedings in other two Italian cities, (Bagnoli (Naples) and Reggio Emilia) did not produce the same results causing the rage of citizens. Only in Bagnoli asbestos made 400 victims out of 573 people affected by asbestos related diseases.
900 people present in Turin came from Casale Monferrato, the town that became symbol of the asbestos victims struggle where there have been 1800 deaths in a population of about 36.000 citizens. Casale Monferrato will receive 25 million euros from Schmidheiny and De Carier, the region of Piemonte 20 millions, Asl (public healthcare) 5 millions and the victims relatives association (Afeva) 100.000. Victims relatives will receive between 30.000 and 50.000 euros each, around 95 million euros totally.
Eternit trial is with no doubts one of the most important trials ever held for industrial disasters, and the hope is that this sentence can “make history”, tracing the road for others.
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