Italian Senator who compared his colleague to an "orangutan" has been convicted
La Repubblica reports that Italian Senator Roberto Calderoli, who represents the anti-immigration Lega party, was given a conditional sentence on Monday, 14 January of 18 months in prison for having compared the first Black minister in Italy to an orangutan in the year 2013. Calderoli may appeal the verdict.
Cécile Kyenge, an opthalmologist who is currently an MEP, was Italy's Integration Minister in 2013-2014. She has repeatedly faced similar attacks.
"If I see a photograph of Kyenge I can't help but think of her similarity to an orangutan," Calderoli said in July 2013, when he was vice-chair of the Senate, at a meeting of the Lega Nord party, which dropped the word "Nord" from its name before last year's elections. The senator later attempted to make light of his remark, but was subjected to a cold shower of criticism, even from members of this own party.
Calderoli subsequently personally apologized to the minister. Kyenge did not sue personally, but prosecutions of the remark were instead initiated by two different prosecutors.
In 2015 the defense referred to Article 68 of the Italian Constitution, according to which legislators cannot be convicted for remarks made in the performance of their office. The Italian Senate then approved of the proceedings continuing.
Calderoli was charged with defamation, and later the aggravated circumstance of a racist subtext was added to the charges. Kyenge has welcomed the sentence as a good sign, tweeting: "Good news from Bergamo: Calderoli sentenced to a year and a half for racist insults addressed to me in the year 2013: A conditional sentence, but an encouraging one for those combating racism in Italy. We won!"
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