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Northern League MEP must pay €50,000 to ex-minister over racial slurs

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Northern League MEP must pay €50,000 to ex-minister over racial slurs
MEP Cecile Kyenge pictured during a press conference. Photo: Gabriel Buoys/AFP
15:26 CEST+02:00
An MEP from Italy's Northern League party was on Thursday ordered to pay €50,000 in damages to the country's first black minister over racial slurs.

In addition to the compensation, Northern League MEP Mario Borghezio was fined a further €1,000 for defamation aggravated by the charge of racial hatred, over remarks aimed at former Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

READ ALSO: The Local speaks to Cecile Kyenge

Speaking to Radio 24 news programme La Zanzara in 2013, Borghezio said, while speaking about Kyenge: "Africans are Africans and belong to a very ethnicity different from ours". He went on to say that Kyenge, who trained as an ophthalmologist in Italy, "took away a job from an Italian doctor".

Following Thursday's ruling, Borghezio reportedly said he couldn't afford the sum, and "would have to sell [his] house". 

The MEP has a history of racist and controversial remarks, and on another occasion said that Kyenge "wants to impose her tribal traditions from the Congo" on Italy.

He has also previously been fined for violence against a minor after forcefully holding down a 12-year-old Moroccan street seller, and was suspended from his party for three months after praising some of the manifesto ideas of mass killer and right-wing extremist Anders Breivik.

His remarks about Kyenge saw him thrown out of the eurosceptic European Parliament group, Europe of Freedom and Democracy.

Kyenge, who is now an MEP, faced a barrage of abuse after taking office as Integration Minister in April 2013. 

In July of that year, a councillor in Padua was found guilty of inciting racial violence for a Facebook post calling for the rape of Kyenge. Dolores Valandro was given a 13-month suspended sentence, a €13,000 fine and a three-year ban from public office.

In the same month the minister had bananas thrown at her at a political rally and Roberto Calderoli, a senator from Italy's anti-immigration Northern League, caused outrage when he said that the minister resembled an orangutan.

Calderoli refused a call from then-prime minister Enrico Letta to step down and has remained in his post ever since despite facing charges of defamation. Senators ruled in 2015 that the remark was not racist, a decision Kyenge said left her "surprised" and "sad".

In 2014, the editor of the Northern League party newspaper claimed Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge enjoys "racial immunity". He made the comments after the policy agenda of Italy's first black minister was published by the paper, a move which was strongly criticized by Kyenge's Democratic Party colleagues, who argued the article aimed to intimidate the minister.

The Northern League campaigns on an anti-immigrant platform and was a vocal critic of Kyenge’s plans to reform Italy’s citizenship law which would give more rights to the children of immigrants.

The bill was passed by Italy's lower house of parliament in 2015, but still needs to be passed by the upper house (Senate) before it can become law.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about Italy's political system

 

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