Conflict & Justice

Asbestos Executives Found Guilty in Italy

Emotions ran high at a court house in Turin, Italy, on Monday as a judge sentenced two men to 16 years in jail for negligence that caused more than 2,000 deaths from asbestos poisoning.

Player utilities

(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

The court-house was crowded with families of victims and some of those who are still suffering. Some cried. Others applauded.

Former executives Stephan Schmidheiny, 64, and Jean Louis Marie Ghislain de Cartier de Marchienne, 90, were found guilty of intentionally omitting to install measures to prevent health damage from asbestos at their Eternit cement factories in Italy.

"That's what the case was about," says Barry Castleman, an American environmental consultant who testified at the trial.

Speaking with Anchor Marco Werman, Castleman says the defendants "did not take reasonable steps to protect workers and the community."

As an example Castleman says, "they (the workers) were not provided with the extensive dust control systems that would have at least reduced their risk."

Asbestos fibers cause lung cancer, chronic pulmonary disease, and other illnesses. The material was once popular as it provides good insulation and can retard fire. It's still used in many developing countries.

The factories in Italy closed in 1986.

The verdict could set a precedent for similar cases around the world. The defendants were also ordered to pay millions in damages.

The defendants, who were tried in absentia, both plan to appeal.

  • asbestos-in-lungCDC.jpg

    Asbestos fibers lodged in the lungs (Photo:CDC)

  • barry_castleman_Torino_trial.jpg

    Barry Castleman testifying in Turin (Photo: Global Ban Asbestos Network)

  • RTR2XSGGmanfacepalm.jpg

    Credit:

    REUTERS

    A family member of a victim reacts as he listens to the verdict at the trial against the Swiss firm Eternit's Italian plant in Turin February 13, 2012. An Italian court on Monday sentenced a Swiss tycoon and a Belgian baron to 16 years in jail for negligence that led to more than 2,000 asbestos-related deaths in the biggest trial of its kind. Former Swiss owner Stephan Schmidheiny and Belgian shareholder and former executive Jean Louis Marie Ghislain De Cartier De Marchienne were accused of intentionally omitting to put in place measures to prevent asbestos damage at Swiss firm Eternit's Italian plants. The defendants, who were not in court, were charged for their role as executives at Eternit's Italian affiliate Eternit SpA. Their lawyers have said they bear no responsibility in the case. The company closed its Italian operations in 1986. REUTERS/Giorgio Perottino (ITALY - Tags: CRIME LAW HEALTH BUSINESS)

  • RTR2XSGGmanfacepalm-cropped.jpg

    Credit:

    REUTERS

    A family member of a victim reacts as he listens to the verdict at the trial against the Swiss firm Eternit's Italian plant in Turin February 13, 2012. An Italian court on Monday sentenced a Swiss tycoon and a Belgian baron to 16 years in jail for negligence that led to more than 2,000 asbestos-related deaths in the biggest trial of its kind. Former Swiss owner Stephan Schmidheiny and Belgian shareholder and former executive Jean Louis Marie Ghislain De Cartier De Marchienne were accused of intentionally omitting to put in place measures to prevent asbestos damage at Swiss firm Eternit's Italian plants. The defendants, who were not in court, were charged for their role as executives at Eternit's Italian affiliate Eternit SpA. Their lawyers have said they bear no responsibility in the case. The company closed its Italian operations in 1986. REUTERS/Giorgio Perottino (ITALY - Tags: CRIME LAW HEALTH BUSINESS)

  • RTR2XSGGmanfacepalm-cropped2.jpg

    RTR2XSGGmanfacepalm cropped2

  • RTR2XSCFposter.jpg

    Credit:

    REUTERS

    Posters reading "Stephan Schmidheiny your place is in prison" are displayed outside the courthouse during a trial against the Swiss firm Eternit's Italian plant in Turin February 13, 2012. An Italian court on Monday sentenced a Swiss tycoon and a Belgian baron to 16 years in jail for negligence that led to more than 2,000 asbestos-related deaths in the biggest trial of its kind. Former Swiss owner Stephan Schmidheiny and Belgian shareholder and former executive Jean Louis Marie Ghislain De Cartier De Marchienne were accused of intentionally omitting to put in place measures to prevent asbestos damage at Swiss firm Eternit's Italian plants. The defendants, who were not in court, were charged for their role as executives at Eternit's Italian affiliate Eternit SpA. Their lawyers have said they bear no responsibility in the case. The company closed its Italian operations in 1986. REUTERS/Giorgio Perottino (ITALY - Tags: CRIME LAW HEALTH BUSINESS)

  • asbestoscourtscene.jpg

    Family members of victims listen to the verdict (Photo: Giorgio Perottino/Reuters)

Comments