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New Law School Subject -- the Mafia
By The Associated Press
November 10, 2004

The Mafia has been the subject of countless films, books and even museums in Italy. Now it is also the subject of a university course.

The class, which opened Friday at the Faculty of Law of the Roma Tre university, looks at the birth and development of organized crime in Italy, as well as at the state's fight against it. About 500 students have enrolled and will have to take an exam at the end of the three-month course, the university said.

"I am positively surprised at the remarkable interest the course has raised in the students," said Enzo Ciconte, a Mafia expert and one of the teachers. "It proves that a university must get closer to questions that affect our society."

The class is the first of its kind at an Italian University, Roma Tre said. But there have been other efforts to explain the history and reach of organized crime in Italy -- mafia research centers have sprung up in recent years, and at least two museums have been devoted to the subject, including one in Corleone, the Sicilian town whose name is practically synonymous with Cosa Nostra.

On Friday, the course was inaugurated with fanfare. The national anti-Mafia prosecutor and the head of the parliamentary anti-Mafia commission gave speeches in a university room packed with hundreds of students. Ciconte, the professor, is also a a consultant to the anti-Mafia commission.

The class, two hours a week, look at the roots of organized crime in Italy and follow its development under Fascist rule, in postwar years and up until the present day. It explains the differences between various syndicates in the country -- including the Sicilian Mafia and the Calabrian 'ndrangheta, which investigators say is becoming the most powerful crime organization in Italy -- and examines how they raise money.

It also looks at how the state has fought against the Mafia over the decades, including the crackdown in the 1990s that led to scores of arrests and convictions.