Italy: former mayor Domenico Lucano, a figure in the reception of migrants, sentenced to thirteen years in prison

In the early 2000s, Domenico Lucano had the honors of all the international press. Then mayor of Riace, he had given life to his depopulated village of Calabria by welcoming hundreds of migrants.

“Today, I died inside. I have no words. I did not expect this condemnation.” Domenico Lucano says to himself “destroy”. The former mayor of Riace, in Calabria (southern Italy), will appeal his conviction, pronounced by the court of Locri. But the blow is hard. The one who has long been an emblematic figure in the reception of migrants in Italy was sentenced to thirteen years in prison. A sentence much higher than the eight years of imprisonment requested by the prosecutor. He will also have to reimburse 500,000 euros that had been paid by the European Union and the Italian government.

Domenico Lucano was accused of having organized marriages of convenience to help women refused asylum to stay in Italy. The justice also reproached the former city councilor for not having made a call for tenders for the management of garbage in the village of Riace and for having attributed it to cooperatives linked to migrants. “Criminal association, abuse of power, extortion and embezzlement”, the list of charges was long, but “Mimmo”, as he is known in Italy, was convinced that he would be acquitted.

The former mayor of Riace was arrested in the fall of 2018 and placed under house arrest. At the time, the Minister of the Interior was Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League, a far-right party. The Italian left then denounced a “political police”. Today, for Enrico Letta, secretary of the PD (Democratic Party, center left), “this sentence is terrible because it will reinforce the distrust of the justice of our country”. On his Twitter account, Matteo Salvini believes on the contrary that “Calabria does not deserve to have crooks, friends of illegal immigrants”.

In 2010, Domenico Lucano was however distinguished as one of the “best mayors in the world”. He was quoted in 2016 by the magazine Fortune as one of the most influential people. He had inspired a docufiction in Wim Wenders and was regularly invited to international conferences on migration.

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