Italy’s biggest mafia trial in 30 years got off to a deceptively low-key start in Calabria last month as hundreds of lawyers filed into a converted call center on an industrial estate to defend 355 ’NDrangheta syndicate suspects. Covid restrictions on travel meant the cages set up to hold the accused were empty. Instead, video screens hanging from the ceiling of the huge room lit up as defendants stuck in jails across Italy were patched in for a very unusual Zoom conference.

As is customary on the first day of big Italian trials, no evidence was heard as judges and lawyers discussed court procedures, and by mid-afternoon bored journalists were taking shelter from the rain outside, smoking and knocking back espressos served at the makeshift café.

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