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Italy’s former mayor celebrated being a savior for migrants who were sentenced to 13 years in prison

On Thursday, Domenico Lucano, the former mayor of Italy who gained international fame for his innovative approach to integrating immigrants, was sentenced to 13 years and two months in prison. His lawyers have so far said they were convicted by the court only because they found irregularities in the way he handled the cases of asylum seekers who came to his city.

Domenico Lucano, 63, was mayor of Riace from 2004 to 2018, which is roughly equivalent. A village of 1,900 inhabitants that has existed since the Middle Ages in the southern region of Calabria. By the end of his tenure, more than 300 former residents of Riace were immigrants. In 2016, Fortune magazine ranked her among the 50 best leaders in the world.

Domenico Lucano, former mayor of Riace

Photo: JORG CARSTENSEN/dpa Picture-Alliance via AFP

“I devoted my life to fighting against the mafia clans, I was the last to arrive, I was on the side of the refugees… Today it was all over for me. I expected a complete acquittal, I didn’t think it would happen.” The mayor made a statement to the Lochry City Court.

According to Italian media, he is accused of embezzlement and abuse of office, as well as facilitating illegal immigration by circumventing asylum rules. However, it is not yet clear exactly what crimes he was convicted of. The punishment is also horrific because it is nearly twice the duration that the plaintiffs requested.

His lawyers described the sentence as absurd and “contrary to all evidence”, and they will appeal the ruling once the reasons for the ruling are published.

The court’s decision also angered NGOs and left-wing politicians, but benefited right-wing parties as there will be local elections in Calabria over the weekend, with Lucano running for one of the regional council positions. “The left is launching candidates who have been sentenced to 13 years in prison,” wrote Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-immigrant far-right League party, a vocal opponent of Lucano’s efforts to integrate. (Reuters)

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