January 29, 2020 / 4:20 PM / 21 days ago

Italian far-right leader says terrorized by online stalker

FILE PHOTO: Brothers of Italy party leader Giorgia Meloni speaks to the media after consultations with Italian President Sergio Mattarella in Rome, Italy, August 22, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

ROME (Reuters) - Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party, told a court on Wednesday she feared for her three-year-old daughter after an online stalker claimed on Facebook that the child was his.

“I’m not sleeping at night thinking about the threats that this man has leveled at me on Facebook,” said Meloni, whose popularity has risen sharply over the past year, making her one of the most recognizable faces in Italian politics.

Raffaele Nugnes was arrested in southern Italy last year after Meloni’s sister denounced him to the police over his Facebook posts, where he published a photo of Meloni with her baby daughter and said the girl was his.

“Giorgia Meloni, I would like to see my daughter Ginevra please,” he wrote on one occasion. “You have three days to go you-know-where. If you don’t come, you know what will happen, I will come to Garbatella,” he said, referring to the Rome neighborhood where Meloni lives.

He repeated his assertion in court on Wednesday and the judge ordered that he undergo a psychiatric assessment.

Meloni said she had never met the man.

“I am often away from home and I have grown increasingly anxious and have had to take special precautious. Just having a baby sitter is no longer enough,” she said.

Politicians of all colors expressed their solidarity with Meloni. Her party is allied with Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League and is now the fourth largest group in Italy, according to latest opinion polls, with support climbing into double digits in recent months.

Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Gareth Jones

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