The African-born politician who served was Italy’s first Black cabinet minister applauded the guilty verdict of an Italian lawmaker who racially abused her–even though he’s unlikely be get punished.
A court in Bergamo sentenced Roberto Calderoli to 18 months in prison on charges of defamation aggravated by racial hatred on Jan. 14 for comparing Cécile Kyenge to an orangutan, the Guardian reported.
Calderoli, a senator for Italy’s far-right League, made the comment in July 2013. “I cannot but think of the features of an orangutan,” he stated about seeing pictures of Kyenge, who was serving as the government’s integration minister at the time.
Kyenge gave the verdict a thumbs-up, noting that racism is increasing.
“It’s a very important signal. It means there are still judges who manage to keep watch over the political and public scene, and shows they are also trying to speak in the name of respect and dignity for people [who suffer racist attacks], and for fundamental rights. Words are weighty, and when they come from a politician, they risk having a very negative impact,” she said.
In his defense, Calderoli tried but failed to convince the court that his racist remark was just “playful banter.”
However, the senator is unlikely to serve prison time, according to the newspaper. He’s entitled to two appeals, and sentences of less than two years are typically suspended.
Calderoli’s comment was far from the only racist incident that Kyenge has had to deal with in Italy. Others have thrown bananas at her at public events.
Ironically, the Black politician also faces a racism lawsuit from the country’s main far-right party.
She received notice on Sept. 14 of a trial to defend herself in a defamation lawsuit filed by the League’s interior minister Matteo Salvini.
Salvini, who has been criticized for creating a climate of hate in Italy, is angry that Kyenge has called his party racist. The lawsuit stems from an interview in 2014 during an annual social democratic event that’s celebrated across the nation. Kyenge remarked that the party is “racist.” A second hearing in the case is scheduled for March 29 at a court in Piacenza.
Kyenge immigrated to Italy from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1983 to study medicine. She’s currently a member of the European Parliament.