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Italy president testifies behind closed doors in Mafia negotiation trial, answers all

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ROME — Italy's president testified for three hours Tuesday behind closed doors in a Mafia trial over purported negotiations between the state and organized crime to stop terror attacks in the 1990s, an unprecedented comingling of politics, law enforcement and the mob inside the presidential palace.

The office of President Giorgio Napolitano said the 89-year-old president responded to all questions put to him, including those he could have refused to answer. Some questions came from the lawyer of Italy's most notorious mob boss, Salvatore "Toto" Riina.

Prosecutors were seeking Napolitano's testimony in connection with the trial of a former government official accused of giving false testimony in the investigation over purported state-mafia negotiations. Napolitano has not been accused of any wrongdoing and was called as a witness.

Magistrates traveled from Palermo to Rome to question Napolitano about communications he had with a now-deceased aide whose dealings with the main suspect, former Interior Minister Nicola Mancino, are being investigated.

PHOTO: Convicted Mafia boss Toto Riina's lawyer Luca Cianferoni arrives at the Quirinale Presidential palace in Rome, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. Italy's president will testify in the trial of a former government official accused of negotiating with Mafia bosses to end terror bombings in the 1990s. President Giorgio Napolitano, 89, is to testify behind closed doors Tuesday when the trial moves from Palermo to Rome for the day. Journalists and opposition politicians on Monday demanded that the media, including live TV, be allowed to cover Napolitano's testimony. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Convicted Mafia boss Toto Riina's lawyer Luca Cianferoni arrives at the Quirinale Presidential palace in Rome, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. Italy's president will testify in the trial of a former government official accused of negotiating with Mafia bosses to end terror bombings in the 1990s. President Giorgio Napolitano, 89, is to testify behind closed doors Tuesday when the trial moves from Palermo to Rome for the day. Journalists and opposition politicians on Monday demanded that the media, including live TV, be allowed to cover Napolitano's testimony. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Mancino is on trial for allegedly giving false testimony about purported negotiations between the state and the Mafia following the 1993 bombings of churches in Rome, the Uffizi museum in Florence, and a Milan park. Mancino has denied any negotiations.

Prosecutors allege that after the bombings on the mainland, government officials sought to cut a deal with Mafia bosses, promising more lenient prison conditions in exchange for calling off the bombing campaign.

Napolitano, who was president of Italy's lower chamber of deputies at the time, had said he had nothing useful to tell the court. But he agreed to testify.

The hearing occurred behind closed doors in the presidential palace with no media present.

In a statement, Napolitano's office said it hoped the court would publish the transcript of the hearing as soon as possible to show the public how Napolitano had showed "the maximum transparency and serenity" during the interrogation.

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PHOTO: Convicted Mafia boss Toto Riina's lawyer Luca Cianferoni arrives at the Quirinale Presidential palace in Rome, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. Italy's president will testify in the trial of a former government official accused of negotiating with Mafia bosses to end terror bombings in the 1990s. President Giorgio Napolitano, 89, is to testify behind closed doors Tuesday when the trial moves from Palermo to Rome for the day. Journalists and opposition politicians on Monday demanded that the media, including live TV, be allowed to cover Napolitano's testimony. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
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