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31 LKA Blog (February29 , 2012)

Brazilian prosecutors, who closely followed developments in Turin, regard the 128-page verdict of the Turin criminal court as a precedent to be used in on-going actions in Brazil. In light of this, executives from Eternit S.A. and other Brazilian asbestos companies might one day find themselves in the dock, charged with similar offenses to those faced by their European counterparts.

The tension in the Turin courtroom had a physical presence even as people chatted amongst themselves in the minutes before the proceedings began.

As we heard the English translator say “In the name of the Italian people, the Turin criminal court declares the defendants Schmidheiny and De Cartier guilty,” the burden of expectation which had been pressing down on us all dissipated. The skies cleared and the sun shone brightly in the courtrooms where victims, their family members, supporters and consultants were gathered.

In France, attempts to replicate the Turin process are being made but success has not yet to be achieved. Elsewhere, ban asbestos campaigners look on in awe at what has happened in Italy.

As she was doing so, thousands of miles away, Mossano was putting the finishing touches on her play, Malapolvere (bad dust) which opened in Turin to a full house at the Gobetti Theatre two nights later. The play, a monologue, was performed by Luciana Curino, a well-known Italian actress; the substance of the drama is the 1,800 missing people, asbestos dead, from Casale Monferrato, the town which was home to the Eternit asbestos-cement factory.

The criminal trial in Turin of two former Eternit executives is a landmark in the global fight against asbestos; the significance of the proceedings has resulted in massive media coverage and huge international attention. The 11th hour offer by Stephan Schmidheiny, termed a “transparent ploy” by one observer, could impact on the court’s verdict; the deal with Casale could not only ensure that the victims no longer have the support of the civic authorities but also that the Judges find extenuating circumstances to reduce Stephan Schmidheiny’s punishment should he be found guilty as charged.

32 Landmark Victory for Italian Asbestos Victims (February 20, 2012)

Italian actress Laura Curino, who had performed a play about the asbestos scandal to packed audiences in Turin the previous week, praised the care and respect with which Judge Casalbore, the President of the Court, announced the judgment. “Each name,” she said “was given equal weight and dignity.

The majority of victims and family members were accommodated in another packed auditorium; 23 coachloads of people from Casale Monferrato had made the journey to Turin to witness the proceedings. It is believed that there were more than 1,500 people present in four courtrooms.

Delegations from France, Belgium, Switzerland, the UK and the US were in courtroom 2 where simultaneous translations in French and English were available. This was the first time translations had been provided by the Turin criminal court; the fact that the translations were streamed live over the internet (see: http://asbestosinthedock.ning.com/) was a reflection of the enormous worldwide interest in this case.

As we heard the English translator pronounce the words “In the name of the Italian people, the Turin criminal court declares the defendants Schmidheiny and De Cartier guilty,” we knew that the victims' 30-year campaign for justice had succeeded. Both defendants received 16-year prison sentences.

This lawsuit was pioneered by Turin Public Prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello, who spent 10 years researching the background to the case, the crimes and the criminals involved. Unlike asbestos litigation in countries like the UK and the U.S., the asbestos victims did not have to pay any legal fees or court costs; these were borne by the office of the public prosecutor.

33 IBAS Eternit Monograph Released as Verdict in the Great Asbestos Trial is Announced (February 11, 2012)

On February 13, 2012, a Turin Court will announce the verdict in a criminal case brought by Italian prosecutors against former asbestos executives employed by the Swiss and Belgian Eternit Groups: Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny and Belgian Baron Louis de Cartier de Marchienne.

Coachloads of Italians will be making the journey to Turin to hear the verdict including hundreds of high school students from Casale Monferrato. They will be joined by asbestos campaigners from all over the world, all of whom will be hoping to see justice done by the three-judge panel. The verdict can be heard in real time on the websites:

“I am in no doubt about the culpability of this corporate Goliath for the asbestocide witnessed wherever its plants were operational. I feel confident that the Turin judges will hand down exemplary sentences recognizing the crimes committed in Casale Monferrato and elsewhere.”

34 Clarification of Turin Judgment (February 23, 2012)

In the aftermath of the Turin verdict of February 13, 2012 condemning asbestos defendants Stephen Schmidheiny and Jean-Louis de Cartier de Marchienne for their part in the asbestos deaths of thousands of Italians (see: Landmark Victory for Italian Asbestos Victims), many questions are being asked about the details of the 128-page ruling.

35 Update from Casale Monferrato (December 16, 2011)

the town council of Casale Monferrato, led by Mayor Giorgio Demezzi, will rubber-stamp a deal, commonly called the “pact with the devil.” Despite massive opposition from Italy and abroad, the politicians will accept an €18 million offer from Stephen Schmidheiny, a former asbestos executive on trial in Turin over the epidemic of deaths caused by asbestos contamination.1 Although Schmidheiny set a deadline of December 31, 2011 for the agreement to be finalized, it seems the town council can't wait to comply.

36 Eternit on Trial (November 24, 2011)

Due to the determination of the people of Casale Monferrato and the persistence of the Turin prosecutors, two former Eternit executives have been accused and tried for their alleged involvement in the company's negligent exploitation of asbestos. The charges against Stephan Schmidheiny and Baron Jean Louis Marie Ghislain De Cartier de Marchienne include allegations of wilfully causing an environmental disaster and failure to comply with safety rules. Neither defendant has appeared in the Turin court.

37 Surprise Moves by Schmidheiny's Lawyers (November 27, 2011)

The Cavagnolo deal was announced as the lead prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello was making his closing statement to the Court in July; the later offers came just days after the proceedings in Turin drew to a close. It is well known that politicians the world over have a very short memory when it comes to the promises they make and the statements they issue.

38 Making Waves and Noise in Turin (July 18, 2011)

A play “The Translator” about the Turin judicial process is being shown at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August and next year two exposés about Eternit are scheduled for publication. The fact that both these books are in English is highly significant as previous texts about the company's global activities have, to date, been available in German, Italian, French and Portuguese but not in English.

The Turin trial may very well be the tipping point in the corporate legacy not only of the former Eternit multinationals but also of other Eternit companies around the world still manufacturing asbestos-cement products.

39 A Town in Mourning, a Town Reborn (May 3, 2011)

The town did not die even though thousands of individuals did. From its shared grief, a community action group emerged which lobbied for justice, decontamination, medical and scientific research. That this movement flourished and succeeded when so many others might have faltered is a measure of the deeply-rooted motivation of its leaders, their strategic thinking and political skills as well as the heartfelt support and engagement of the entire population. A town united in sorrow but determined to call to account those who had brought it to its knees. Ongoing criminal proceedings in the Turin Court against former Eternit executives Stefan Schmidheiny and Jean-Louis Chislain de Cartier De Marchienne are supported not only by the victims and their family members but by the wider community in Italy and abroad.

Having pressed for legal redress for so many decades, the Turin trial is the focus of local attention and civic hope. Of course, any decision will be appealed, but a guilty verdict will confirm that the evil deeds perpetrated in Casale Monferrato are finally receiving the judicial attention they warrant.

40 Asbestos Center Stage on Workers' Memorial Day (April 27, 2011)

Two former asbestos executives are on trial in Turin for their role in the negligent operations of the companies which owned this plant.

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