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An Italian court sentences a Swiss tycoon and a Belgian baron to 16 years in jail for negligence leading to over 2 thousand asbestos-related deaths. The prosecutor described it as "a historic trial."
A Swiss tycoon and a Belgian baron were convicted by an Italian court and sentenced to 16 years in jail on Monday.
The charge was negligence that led to more than 2 thousand asbestos-related deaths in the biggest trial of its kind.
The case in Turin could set a precedent for proceedings worldwide about safety at the workplace.
64-year-old former Swiss owner Stephan Schmidheiny and 90-year-old Belgian shareholder and former executive Jean Louis Ghislain were accused of intentionally omitting to put in place measures to prevent asbestos damage at the Swiss firm Eternit's Italian plants.
The defendants, who were tried in absentia, were charged for their role as executives at the fiber cement maker's Italian affiliate Eternit SpA.
Protesters gathered outside the court house and laid down posters with featureless faces and names of victims who died from asbestos-related diseases.
[Giuseppe Casalbore, Judge]:
"I condemn them to 16 years each and payment for the court proceedings."
The prosecutor had sought a 20-year jail sentence for both defendants.
Schmidheiny called the ruling "incomprehensible" and said he would appeal.
Prosecutors said the lack of safety measures led to the deaths or illnesses over the past four decades of Eternit workers and residents of towns where the firm's four plants were based.
Overall, more than 6 thousand people, including former employees and local residents, were seeking damages in the case.
Hundreds of victims and their families plus dozens of lawyers and their aides packed the courthouse for the verdict at the end of what the prosecutor called "a historic trial."