aman Sergio Mattarella brother
Italian President: The Mafia murdered my brother
02:52 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

For the first time, Italian President Sergio Mattarella has told the story of his brother’s murder at the hands of the Mafia more than three decades ago.

In an emotional and exclusive interview Thursday with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, his first since taking office, President Mattarella said that the two were “very close,” and the murder spurred him to enter politics.

“I had no intention of entering politics, but then the force of events led me to become involved in politics.”

“He was assassinated by the Mafia because he was opposing their interests and their influence.”

President Mattarella said that he had long seen the Mafia as a “central and decisive issue.”

“It’s something I’ve never [spoken about],” he said through an interpreter.

“He was in his car. And he was going to Mass with his wife and his children. And an assassin approached the car and shot him despite the fact that the wife of my brother was trying to protect his head with her hands, and she was also wounded.”

“I was immediately called by one of my nephews, and I went down straight away. And I took him to the hospital, but it – there was no chance of saving him. He was already dead.”

“And this obviously is a memory” – he paused with the glint of a tear in his eye – “which is very painful for me.”

It took him some time to enter politics, he told her, but he would eventually spend more than two decades in parliament, and serve as defense and education minister.

“In all these years I’ve always tried to emphasize and to promote the need to combat the Mafia. Because it is a cancer which is oppressive and which stifles everybody’s freedom and reduces the possibility for the areas in which it’s present to prosper and to develop.”

“Obviously, there are always dangers. But if one has respect for one’s own dignity, and for one’s role, it is something which you need to do anyway.”

“Now I’ve got very good protection, of course. But in previous years that was not the case. And I’ve met many people who even though they knew they were exposed to great danger acted very bravely against the Mafia.”