Italian justice minister survives confidence vote

Associated Press
Italian Premier Enrico Letta, right, and Justice Minister Annamaria Cancellieri wait ahead of a confidence vote at the Italian Lower Chamber of Parliament, in Rome, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. Italy's justice minister has denied intervening to free a family friend from jail in an address to lawmakers as she faced a confidence vote. Cancellieri has been under pressure to resign following revelations that, while minister, she called the friend's companion to express sympathy after her arrest for alleged false accounting. Cancellieri told Parliament ahead of the Wednesday confidence vote that she regretted the personal phone call, but insisted that she had shown no professional favoritism. She has the support Premier Enrico Letta, who sought to ensure center-left lawmakers' support Cancellieri by linking the confidence vote to the survival of his government. (AP Photo/Mauro Scrobogna, Lapresse) ITALY OUT
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ROME (AP) — Italy's justice minister survived a no-confidence vote Wednesday after insisting to lawmakers that she didn't abuse her position to win the release of a family friend from jail.

Annamaria Cancellieri has been under pressure to resign following revelations that she called court officials to tell them that the family friend was in ill health. Cancellieri also acknowledges calling the woman's companion to express sympathy after her arrest for alleged false accounting.

Cancellieri has said she regrets the phone calls, but insisted in remarks to Parliament ahead of Wednesday's vote that she had not pulled any strings to win Giulia Ligresti's release.

Cancellieri survived the vote by 405-154. She has the support of President Giorgio Napolitano and Premier Enrico Letta, who sought to ensure support for Cancellieri by linking the confidence vote to the survival of his government.

The motion was brought by the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement founded by former comic Beppe Grillo, and it had divided Letta's center-left Democratic Party.

Ligresti is the daughter of Salvatore Ligresti, an insurance magnate who is under house arrest, also on charges of false accounting and market manipulation.

Cancellieri said she called penitentiary officials on Aug. 19, about a month after Giulia Ligresti was placed in pre-trial custody, to pass along information about the woman's health. But, Cancellieri said, "the situation was already known to the judges and the penitentiary officials."

Giulia Ligresti was released to house arrest on Aug. 28 and subsequently made a plea bargain with prosecutors.

Turin prosecutors have said they won't investigate Cancellieri for wrongdoing.

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