By FRANCES D’EMILIO, Associated Press
ROME (AP) – A court in southern Italy on Thursday recognized the former mayor of a small town dubbed “the host city” for helping illegal immigration and sentenced him to 13 years and two months in prison.
Domenico “Mimmo” Lucano was also convicted of fraud, embezzlement, criminal association and abuse of power by the court in Calabria, the region which forms the “tip” of the Italian peninsula.
Lucano has denied any wrongdoing.
“I will be tainted for life for mistakes I did not commit,” the Italian news agency ANSA said. days of deliberations.
Political cartoons about world leaders
Prosecutors alleged that Lucano facilitated marriages of convenience between Italian men in the town of Riace and foreign women to obtain Italian residence permits for the women. They also alleged that he embezzled public funds meant to aid migrants, including € 5million which prosecutors said ended up in private pockets and not used to help migrants. migrants.
His lawyers said they would appeal both the conviction and the sentence, which was about five years longer than prosecutors requested.
One of his lawyers, Giuliano Pisapia, former left-wing mayor of Milan, had ruled out that the trial was motivated by political considerations. Yet, he said, “without a doubt, there was certainly hostility against Lucano.”
Lucano remains out of prison pending the outcome of the final appeals.
Humanitarian groups rescuing migrants from unusable traffickers’ boats in the Mediterranean have expressed outrage at the court’s verdict and sentence.
“The former mayor of Riace gave life and a future to his city through hospitality and solidarity,” tweeted Sea Watch Italy. “We are alongside Mimmo Lucano and anyone who practices solidarity on a daily basis. “
Many migrants in Riace, a town of around 1,700 residents, took municipal jobs, such as street cleaners, while Lucano was mayor.
Another humanitarian group, Mediterranea Saving Humans, called the verdict “shameful”. In a statement, he described the outcome of the trial as “the most serious repressive attack on the culture and practice of solidarity in our country”.
The charity added: “Whoever is poor or a migrant is forced to endure all violence, and anyone who helps them is considered a criminal.”
Riace is famous for the discovery in 1972 of two ancient Greek statues at the bottom of the sea off the nearby coast. The statues are known as the Riace Bronzes.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.