The irony is hard to miss: Italy’s far-right political party, League, claimed in a lawsuit that the country’s first Black cabinet minister is a racist.
Cécile Kyenge received notice on Sept. 14 of a trial to defend herself in a defamation lawsuit filed by the League’s interior minister Matteo Salvini, The Guardian reported.
Salvini, who has been criticized for creating a climate of hate in Italy, is angry that Kyenge has called his party racist. Yet party leaders have called Kyenge an orangutan and said she should be raped, as the Congo-born eye surgeon has endured people throwing bananas at her on several occasions, the Washington Post reported.
The lawsuit stems from an interview in 2014 during an annual social democratic event that’s celebrated across the nation. Kyenge, Italy’s former minister for integration, remarked that the party is “racist.” She will face trial in the northern city of Piacenza over that comment.
Kyenge, who’s now a member of the European Parliament, told the Post that she’s looking forward to defending herself in court.
“If they attack me, they attack many other people. It’s important for me to be there and to make sure that the court doesn’t accept these accusations, not just for me but for all people who stand up against racism in Italy,” she added.
A wave of anti-immigration and anti-European Union sentiment swept the once minor League party into power in May, along with its coalition partner, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.
Salvini has kept his pledge to block migrants from entering the country. He and his party came under fire in June when the government refused to allow a boat with more than 600 migrants, hailing from 26 countries across Africa, from docking in Italy.
Salvini had tried two previous times unsuccessfully to bring a defamation case against Kyenge. She faces a fine if the court rules in favor of Salvini. A judgment is expected by 2021.