AFRICANGLOBE – An Italian senator has been found guilty of making a racist remark about Italy’s first Black minister, Cécile Kyenge.
Roberto Calderoli, from Italy’s far-right Lega Nord party, compared Kyenge, an MEP who was also serving as integration minister at the time, to an orangutan.
Speaking at a political rally in July 2013, he said: “I cannot but think of the features of an orangutan.”
Calderoli sought to excuse the remark as “playful banter” but a court found him guilty of defamation aggravated by racial hatred and handed him an 18 month prison sentence.
Despite the sentence, Calderoli could evade prison time as he can appeal the decision and custodial sentences under two years are often automatically suspended.
Kyenge, who moved to Italy from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1983, has shared her views on the court’s ruling.
She told reporters: “It’s a very important signal.
“It means there are still judges who manage to keep watch over the political and public scene, and shows they are also trying to speak in the name of respect and dignity for people [who suffer racist attacks], and for fundamental rights. Words are weighty, and when they come from a politician, they risk having a very negative impact.”
Calderoli’s comment wasn’t the only incident of racial abuse Kyenge experienced throughout her political career in Italy. Bananas were thrown at her when she attended political events and she was subjected to verbal abuse from other politicians.
Kyenge, who is taking legal action against nine other politicians, according to reports, is also being subjected to a lawsuit from Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Lega Nord.
Salvini has accused Kyenge of defamation following her statements that his party was racist.