Former mayors of Turin are tried in a “pioneering trial” over air pollution

The newspaper describes it as a ‘pioneer process’ The Print from Turin. For the first time since air pollution became a criminal offense in 2015, drivers in Italy are being held accountable. The two suspects in Turin are the leftist Piero Fassino, mayor from 2011 to 2016, and his successor Chiara Appendino, of the Five Star Movement.

Both are well-known politicians in Italy. In addition, a former governor of the Piedmont region and four councilors are also suspects in the lawsuit. All of them are accused of not having adopted sufficiently effective measures to clean the city’s air between 2015 and 2019.

persistent smog

The Public Prosecutor’s Office decided to prosecute the former directors after a group of residents, united in the ‘Turin breathes’ committee, presented a report to prosecutors in 2017. According to their data, the drivers systematically did very little to make the air in their place of residence complies with European standards; Turin is known for its persistent smog filled with dangerous particles. The Public Ministry investigated the case and determined that air pollution caused the premature death of more than a thousand people.

Roberto Mezzalama, president of ‘Turín breathes’, told the media that at one point he felt completely fed up with the bad smell. “I was frustrated. I watched my children and their friends grow up in one of the most polluted cities in Europe. After returning home in February in the middle of smog for the umpteenth time, I decided to carry out a technical and legal investigation together with lawyer friends and send it to the Public Ministry.”

When Mezzalama looked for data on possible smog victims, he was surprised to find it on municipal and regional websites. “There it was read that hundreds of people die every year because of dirty air. It was clear that our directors were perfectly aware of the situation. But they didn’t make the right decisions to solve the problem.”

Traffic restricted area

In their defense, the drivers argue that they have introduced a restricted traffic zone and that on days of intense smog they have further restricted traffic by alternating cars with even and odd license plates. Furthermore, Turin, located west of the great Po Valley, is geographically unfavorable when it comes to air pollution.

The air in the Po Valley, in northern Italy, is the most polluted in all of Western Europe, as confirmed earlier this year by the Italian environmental organization Legambiente, in collaboration with Copernicus, the European Union’s monitoring service. A third of Italians live in densely populated areas around the Po basin, in cities such as Turin, Milan, Cremona, Verona and Padua.

The approximately twenty million people with their heaters and cars, in addition to the huge livestock and many industries, mean that the air is often full of nitrogen and particles. This situation is aggravated by the fact that the flat Po Valley is surrounded by mountains, which causes the air to remain stagnant.

It is unclear how long the case will last. According to Italian public broadcaster Rai, suspects in Turin could receive a fine or a prison sentence of up to four years.

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