Salvatore Riina, Sicily's most notorious mafia boss has "the right to die with dignity," an Italian appeal court said on Monday, opening the door to his eventual release.
Riina, from the Sicilian hill town of Corleone made famous in The Godfather movies, was jailed in 1993 after ruling Sicily's Cosa Nostra with an iron fist for over two decades.
The Sicilian Mafia's "Boss of all Bosses" is believed to have ordered more than 150 murders, including the assassinations of anti-Mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino in 1992.
However 86-year-old suffers from cancer and other ailments, his defence lawyers told the court, and should have his sentence reduced or be allowed to serve it out under house arrest.
Responding to the request by Riina's lawyers, Italy highest court ruled late on Monday he had a right to "die with dignity" under house arrest like any other terminally ill prisoner.
The final decision rests with a parole board in the northern city of Bologna, near Parma, where Riina, 86, is being held.
Last year, the Bologna court had said Riina could be treated for his serious health conditions while incarcerated, but refused to entertain the idea of setting him free.
Furore over decision
Salvatore Borsellino, brother of the slain magistrate slammed the court decision saying court should have considered that Riina ordered the killing of a little boy by acid.
Giuseppe Di Matteo,13, was strangled and his body dissolved in acid by the men worked on behalf of Riina in 1996 to punish his father.
"The court should have remembered that the person before them is same one who blew to bits servants of the state and ordered that a little boy be dissolved in acid," told the Milano based Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Leaders across the political spectrum also agreed that Riina should spend his final days in prison.
"I am speechless," said Matteo Salvini, head of the right-wing Northern League.
"The dozens of victims who should weigh on his conscience and were brutally killed, including women and children, should have had the right to die with dignity," he said.
"We will not allow Riina to return to Corleone," said Carmelo Miceli, head of the centre-left Democratic Party in the Sicilian capital, Palermo.