World News

Senior Italian League politician found guilty of racist slur

FILE PHOTO: Northern League party member Roberto Calderoli shows a whistle as he protests at the Senate in Rome December 22, 2011. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) - A senior parliamentarian in the anti-immigration League party was convicted on Monday of racially abusing Italy’s first black minister and handed an 18-month suspended prison term.

Roberto Calderoli, vice president of Italy’s upper house Senate, told a political rally in 2013 that Cecile Kyenge, an Italian citizen born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, looked like an orangutan.

He subsequently apologized for the comment and denied it was racist, saying he had merely made a “friendly joke”. However, a court in the northern city of Bergamo rejected this and gave him a suspended jail sentence.

In Italy, defendants are allowed two appeals before any verdict becomes definitive.

Kyenge, who became the target of repeated racial slurs following her appointment as integration minister in 2013, said she was delighted by Monday’s court ruling.

“Hurray, hurray, hurray. You pay a heavy price for racism,” she wrote on Facebook. “Racism will be denounced wherever it shows itself.”

There was no immediate comment from Calderoli.

Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Catherine Evans