The decision of the Court of Locri, which sentenced Mimmo Lucano to 13 years and two months in prison, leaves us stunned, outraged and in disbelief. That part of our country that still believes in democracy and the administration of fair justice is in shock.
While the prosecutor’s request for a sentence of 7 years in prison already seemed a monstrosity, with this sentence, the judge has nearly doubled that number, going beyond any possible legal justification.
I have known Mimmo Lucano since the fall of 1998, when he came to Badolato, where Cric (an NGO that was very active at that time) had created the first project for the reception of immigrants, with the aim of reviving an old abandoned village.
Mimmo, with the simplicity and spontaneity that have always characterized him, told us that he wanted to do the same thing in his Riace: “Will you give me a hand?” That’s how the Riace project was born, thanks to an important loan from Banca Etica and, above all, to the solidarity of dozens of Italian and foreign associations, starting from the anarchist community of Longo Mai, which, besides helping with funds, organized a flow of hundreds of solidarity tourists.
Not to mention Recosol, the network of Solidarity Municipalities which for nearly twenty years has supported this project in many ways, so that it became a collective project.
Mimmo Lucano represents its embodiment, having dedicated his entire adult life to it, to the point of giving up his own family to take care of the reception of migrants. Putting him down in this way means putting down the Riace model, known throughout the world as a concrete symbol and a formidable vehicle for another image of Calabria and Italy, able to prove that there is a real alternative to shantytowns, ghettos, and policies of rejection of human beings who are only asking to be able to live with dignity.
And more than that: the Riace model, which has been fortunately taken up by several municipalities in Calabria and other regions, has been and remains the main road for the recovery of abandoned and degraded inland areas, offering an effective response to the environmental risks of landslides, mudslides, floods, largely caused by the dramatic, progressive abandonment of vast territories which are precious for the sustainable future of the country.
And what has Lucano done so bad that he was seen to deserve a sentence of the kind given to hardened murderers, mafiosi, international drug traffickers, serial rapists, terrorists? The former mayor of Riace is accused of aiding and abetting illegal immigration because he advised an immigrant woman, desperate because she was about to be rejected and sent back to her country of origin, to marry an old man.
Who among us would not have been inclined to suggest that as a last resort, in such circumstances? And in any case, if it’s a crime to officiate a marriage between a young immigrant woman and an elderly Italian man, then let’s annul thousands of marriages and arrest everybody.
The other heavy and unbelievable accusation that he stands accused of is that of patronage for electoral purposes, fraud, embezzlement and abuse of office, but not one ill-gotten euro has ever been found in his pockets, nor is there any evidence that he has appropriated public money in any way.
The truth—an uncomfortable, very uncomfortable one—can only be that Lucano stands accused of “crimes of humanity,” for having welcomed tens of thousands of immigrants, which the Prefecture sent to him as a last resort. Because he tried to get them dignified work, because he revived a totally abandoned territory, Lucano has apparently become one of the most dangerous criminals around.
True, his administrative shortcomings and unfamiliarity with the bureaucratic rules have led to him committing administrative errors—however, there is no malice, appropriation of money, bribes or criminal conspiracies to be found there, but only naivety, superficiality and, if you will, the cutting of corners typical for those who cannot stand the constraints of our cumbersome bureaucracy.
With this sentence, the Court of Locri has added, in fact if not in law, the “crime of humanity” to the legal landscape of our country, creating a disturbing precedent. It is yet another signal that shows us the deep crisis that runs through our judiciary, and therefore our democratic institutions. Let us take note of this, and not give up, because we do not want to end up in the land of Erdogan.
Under the banner of saving our democracy and our society, a demonstration was held in Riace on Friday in support of Lucano. Of course, we will not stop here, and we count on the fact that this incredibly unfair sentence will be struck down on appeal.
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