Man convicted in Mafia case takes postal workers hostage

A knife-wielding man upset about a 19-year jail term in a Mafia case held several post office employees hostage in northern Italy for nearly eight hours Monday before surrendering to authorities, police said.

The hostage-taker “opened the door, slowly let the hostages out,” then surrendered to police, Carabinieri Police Lt. Col. Cristiano Desideri said.

The suspect, identified as Francesco Amato, was convicted of Mafia association as one of 125 defendants sentenced by an Italian court last week.

Desideri said the suspect brandished a 25-centimeter (10-inch) kitchen knife but didn’t harm anyone.

“Time, patience and dialogue” during several phone calls resolved the standoff, the police official told reporters outside the post office in the town of Pieve Modolena.

Italian news reports said a cashier was released early in the standoff because she was feeling ill. Four other hostages were held for several more hours.

Desideri didn’t comment on reports the suspect demanded to speak with Italy’s interior minister.

“His was a strong demonstrative action about his situation,” Desideri said, referring to Amato’s recent conviction and prison sentence.

Amato was convicted on Oct. 31 at the end of a trial about alleged infiltration of businesses in the affluent region of Emilia Romagna by the ‘ndrangheta organized crime group.

Investigators say the southern Italy-based ‘ndrangheta, one of the world’s biggest cocaine-trafficking organizations, has expanded northward in Italy and Europe as it seeks to launder billions of euros (dollars) in illicit revenues and invest them in legitimate businesses.

When Amato entered the post office he reportedly shouted: “I’m the one sentenced to 19 years” for Mafia association, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

During the trial, he had been free on his own recognizance.

ANSA quoted one of the suspect’s brothers, who arrived at the scene during negotiations with police, as saying his sibling felt the conviction was unfair.

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