The former mayor of the town of Riace, Domenico "Mimmo" Lucano, is facing a sentence of seven years and eleven months in jail. The charges are alleged illicit dealings in the management of migrant reception in the town, which had gained world renown for its forward-looking migration policies.
A trial against Domenico "Mimmo" Lucano, who as Riace mayor made the town famous around the world for its migrant-hosting policies, is not "political," the prosecutor tasked with the case stressed Monday, May 17, prior to requesting a sentence of seven years and eleven months in jail.
The prosecutor's office went on to say that it is not a "trial against the noble and true aim of migrant reception" and is instead simply against the mismanagement of the reception projects.
Lucano and others are facing a long list of charges in this latest trial in Locri in southern Italy including: criminal association, defrauding the state, abuse of office, corruption, extortion, fraud through public office, and favoring illegal immigration.
Prosecutor Michele Permunian requested a sentence of four years and four months for the former mayor's partner, Lemlem Tasfahun, and sentences of between six months to seven years and eleven months for the other 23 defendants, while asking that three others be acquitted.
Lucano was not in the courtroom on Monday.
On finding out the sentence requested by the prosecutor, Lucano said that such a long term was "the latest demonstration that Riace and the model that we had created frightens them. It was a political ideal that they want to destroy. It is no coincidence that everything started in 2016, when the progressive circles opened the door to the criminalization of solidarity in Italy and Europe. Then (former interior minister Matteo) Salvini arrived and completed the work."
In his eyes, "it is also not a coincidence that today in Riace migrant-hosting continues, as does the mission even without public funds and under the weight of a thousand problems. This is the strongest response. Today (Monday) was the prosecutor's day. But the last chapter has yet to be written."
State prosecutor Luigi D'Alessio was the one to stress that it is not a "trial against the noble and true aim of migrant reception" and that "it has never been in the intentions of the prosecutor's office to counter the basic principle of migrant reception."
D'Alessio claimed that those hurt were "the migrants themselves, since they were given crumbs of the funding provided by the state."
Prosecutor Permunian said in the indictment that "the defense team's theory, reiterated several times during the debate," he said, "is that this is a 'political trial' set in motion by the prosecutor's office after being encouraged to do so by the government. This narrative, perpetuated by numerous statements and interviews with media outlets by some of the defendants, has been calmly proven mistaken during the trial investigation. Adding to this is that, during the trial, the 'conspiracy' theory of some of the defense not only was proven clearly false but some contradictory behaviour was shown by some of the witnesses for the defense."
Lucano accused of 'interests of a political nature'
In the eyes of the prosecution, "numerous conversations clearly show that the actions, including illegal ones, of Lucano were determined by interests of a political nature. In particular, through the setting up of associations and, especially, through the direct employment of staff, he was able to provide jobs or, better, economic support."
The prosecutor added that wiretaps showed that "many Riace residents involved in the associations did not actually work despite receiving salaries. However, Lucano -- despite this illegality -- did not report or suspend projects, because in his mind it is the political world that is 'cheating him': i.e. he acted in such a manner that those jobs represented votes that would be useful at election time."
Lucano responded by noting that "I have never run in any election except for the Riace town council and I have refused offers such as ones for the European Union Parliament and the national and regional elections."