'Orangutan' MP faces defamation probe

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Roberto Calderoli is to be investigated for defamation. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP
16:49 CEST+02:00
Roberto Calderoli is to be formally investigated for defamation after comparing Italy's first black minister, Cécile Kyenge, to an orangutun.

A complaint was filed on Tuesday by a lawyer to the public prosecutor of Bergamo, in northern Italy, according to reports in the Italian media.  Prosecutors will investigate the matter even though there has not been a formal complaint from integration minister Kyenge.

Calderoli, a senator with the anti-immigration Northern League party, could face up to four-and-a-half years in prison for the comments, which Prime Minister Enrico Letta described as a “shameful chapter” for Italy.

Calderoli, who has courted controversy for years with a series of racist, sexist and Islamophobic jibes, said at a rally on Saturday: "When I see pictures of Kyenge, I cannot help thinking of similarities with an orangutan.”

He later apologised for the remarks and pledged to send Kyenge a bunch of roses. But he vowed not resign unless those who elected him want him to.

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The comments were met with a backlash in Italy and around the world. Thousands of people have signed an online petition calling for his resignation.  

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