Lucano was served the bitter pill at the end of an interminable morning. At 11:48 a.m. the president of the judicial panel of the Court of Locri, Fulvio Accurso, after 75 hours of council chamber deliberations, pronounced the awaited sentence. It was a shock for everyone. Mimmo Lucano was sentenced to 13 years and two months in prison. The judges found him guilty of criminal association for the purpose of aiding and abetting illegal immigration, fraud, embezzlement, document fraud and abuse of office with the aggravating circumstance of continuous offending.
He was acquitted on the other counts against him, otherwise the sentence would have been even heavier. He was also sentenced to pay back €500,000 in funding received from the European Union and the government. In addition, he was banned from holding public office for five years. The court also sentenced Lucano’s partner, Lemlem Tesfahun, to four years and 10 months.
The panel increased the sentence requested by the prosecution by six years. The former mayor of Riace had been arrested and placed under house arrest on October 2, 2018, as part of “Operation Xenia” coordinated by the Locri prosecutor’s office. The prosecutors, in their 1,200-page request for preventive measures, called Lucano a “lawless” mayor for having “favored marriages of convenience” between citizens of Riace and foreign women and for having allowed two cooperatives that didn’t fit the requirements to perform the service of urban waste collection. Immediately after the reading of the sentence, the atmosphere of the court became even more quiet and surreal.
As early as Wednesday evening, the neighborhood around the courthouse was off limits. A red zone was sealed off, and only legal practitioners were allowed inside the courtroom. A special room was set aside for the media. “It is a difficult moment. I expected a broad acquittal. I did not expect this sentence. They don’t even treat mafiosi like this,” Lucano said angrily outside the courtroom.
He had his trademark dark polo shirt on, a resigned face and seemed heartbroken. The cameras and microphones outside were waiting for him. He spoke in a roundabout manner, visibly emotional: ”I have nothing, my wife does menial jobs, cleaning people’s homes. I took the side of the humble, I imagined taking part in the redemption of my land. But today, everything ends for me. This was very heavy. I don’t know if they give out similar punishments even for Mafia crimes. For me it’s a difficult moment, I don’t know what I will do.”
The former mayor of Riace then thanked all his lawyers, first of all Antonio Mazzone, who passed away at the end of last year: “I didn’t have the money to pay them, I had to have a public defender appointed. I couldn’t afford lawyers, and I owe everything to them. Today I can say it, I’m not pretending, I’m saying true things. Many people have supported me, even some magistrates have expressed solidarity for an unprecedented case. And today this is the sad outcome.”
The Calabrian world is a topsy-turvy one. In a land where some prominent figures of politics and the institutions have grabbed everything for themselves, where there are no longer rights to water, waste disposal, purification, public health and personal care, work, infrastructure, funding for development, care for the frail and education, with rampant emigration of the younger generations, it is a grotesque sight to see that on the judicial level, the problem is apparently Lucano.
We are waiting to know the motivations for the sentence; however, one aspect is glaring. The judges of Locri have not taken into account the scandalously conflicting pronouncements of several previous judges, from the Review and Cassation courts first of all. Certainly, Lucano has never denied the facts, he has not asked for special treatment, he has not tried to evade the process. He could have done so by running in the European elections and claiming parliamentary immunity, but he chose not to.
And since Thursday afternoon, he is back again in Riace together with his faithful companions, all in distress. With him are also his daughter, his friends, his lifelong comrades and the candidates of the “Another Calabria is possible” list for the regional elections. It is inevitable that this sentence will be an impact on the elections, but at the same time, it’s hard to predict what that will be.
Because of the Severino Law, Lucano will be suspended from office even if he is elected. The closing rally of the election campaign was scheduled for Friday—but it was canceled and transformed instead into a demonstration of solidarity. Because the Riace model has been tried, convicted, but it is still unstoppable.
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