The former mayor of Riace (Calabria, southern Italy) Domenico Lucano, whose city had become a symbol of the reception of migrants, has been sentenced this Thursday to 13 years and two months in jail for his management of aid for this purpose .
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According to the Italian media Corriere della Sera, the judges found him guilty of criminal association aimed at promote irregular immigration , fraud, embezzlement and abuse of power.
The sentence handed down in the first instance has been almost double the seven years requested by the Locri Prosecutor’s Office, which raised the hypothesis of the existence of a criminal system in what had been baptized as an example in the reception of migrants.
“This is an unprecedented story. I will stain myself forever for sins that I have not committed. I expected an acquittal,” said Lucano, who was mayor of Riace from 2004 until his arrest in 2018, after hearing the sentence, according to local media. “I spent my life chasing ideals, I fought against the mafias, also to improve the negative image of my land.”
He was accused of abuse of power, fraud, forgery, manipulation of tenders, embezzlement of funds against the State in its management of the arrival of migrants, which according to the Prosecutor’s Office had only “political interests” as its objective, since it has not been proven that there were economic gains on the part of the alderman.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, Lucano “did not care about the quality of the reception, but rather making his neighbors work to obtain, in exchange, electoral political support.”
Lucano’s lawyers argued that the mayor “gave answers and availability in a period of urgency in Italy on the issue of immigration” and that “in Riace he did what the State had to do. And he did, among other things, not only covering the absence of the State, but in perfect good faith and not for profit or any other personal benefit “.
For years, the model applied in Riace, a town of less than 2,000 inhabitants, for welcoming immigrants had been around the world. The mayor of this city, with a major depopulation problem, had turned to welcoming immigrants to repopulate the abandoned houses of Riace, where hundreds of foreigners now live.
The abandoned houses had been restored with European funds to give a home to immigrants, who had settled in the country and created work with artisan workshops and new restaurants were opened.
Riace’s rebirth had even been the subject of a 2010 documentary by German filmmaker Wim Wenders entitled “Il Volo”, in which he told the story of how Lucano had managed to make his people survive thanks to the effective refugee reception project, giving them shelter in the abandoned houses of the municipality.
In 2016, Forbes magazine included him among the 40 most influential world leaders and also the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, visited the Italian people and highlighted his “example of good politics in the reception” of refugees and also of “integration and struggle against xenophobia “.