Senator convicted for racially abusing Italy's first black minister

January, 2019

An Italian senator who compared a senior black politician to an orangutan has been convicted of racial hate speech.

Senator Roberto Calderoli, a senior member of the anti-immigration League party that makes up one half of Italy's governing coalition, received an 18-month suspended sentence on Monday for racist comments directed at Cécile Kyenge, who became Italy's first and only black cabinet minister under a previous government.

In 2013 the senator told a rally that Kyenge – the country's minister of integration at the time – reminded him of an orangutan, "even if I'm not saying she is one". 

Though the decision handed down by a court in northern Italy won't see Calderoli go to prison, Kyenge called it "an encouraging sentence for all those who fight against racism".

"That's why I'm satisfied with this development: not only for personal reasons, but also because the [court's] decision confirms that racism can and must be fought by legal means, as well as civil, civic and political ones," she wrote in a Facebook post.

While Calderoli's comments were widely condemned at the time, the battle for legal justice has proven lengthy. In 2015 his colleagues in the Senate passed a motion granting him immunity from prosecution for racial hate speech, backing his claim that his antagonism towards Kyenge was purely political.

Source: The Local