When the request from the attorney general was read, Mimmo Lucano was not in the courtroom. He had deserted the hearing in which the indictment of the public prosecution was celebrated. He had left his lawyers, Andrea Daqua and Giuliano Pisapia, to represent him. Mimmo Lucano was not in Reggio Calabria on Wednesday and did not sit among the defendants in the court of appeal. He had remained in Riace. Where, precisely at the resumption of the trial, and not by pure chance, the La Caravane Solidaire passed in honor of him from Paris on September 17.
After a long tour between Italy and France, with stops in Palermo, Naples, Rome, Turin, La Roya and Marseille, the caravan will end its journey on November 5th. That day in Marseille, the socialist mayor Benoit Payan, in the presence of MEPs Damien Carême and Pietro Bartolo, but also artists, lawyers, associations in defense of refugees, will confer honorary citizenship on the former mayor of Riace. And Wednesday the activists of the collective reiterated their appeal to the whole of Europe: “Solidarity cannot be a crime, the Mediterranean cannot become a symbol of death. Hospitality is a treasure, and territories such as Palermo, Riace, Crotone, La Roya, Briançon have shown the example.”
In France, Lucano’s cause enjoys the support of citizens and associations. In Italy, however, in the aura of generalized criminalization of rescue at sea, the work of NGOs and immigration, which has come back into vogue with the new Meloni government, the music is quite different. This week it was confirmed. The prosecutor asked for a sentence of 10 years and five months in prison for the former mayor of Riace and the main defendant in the Xenia trial born from an investigation by the financial police on the management of projects for welcoming migrants in the village of Locride.
Before the court, chaired by Giancarlo Bianchi, the indictment of the deputy attorneys general Adriana Fimiani and Antonio Giuttari lasted three hours. The reformulation of the required sentence is pure legal cosmetics. Little has changed compared to the sentence imposed by the Locri court, which had sentenced him to 13 years and two months in prison. It is true that there is a reduction of three years. But the spirit remains the same. It is a political process built ad hoc to demolish the so-called “Riace model.”
This is what Pietro Calamandrei called “the reversal of meaning,” in the defensive plea for Danilo Dolci, another persecuted by the state: There are no facts but ideas, the context disappears, the identity of the investigated person is overturned. In the case of Lucano, hospitality thus becomes a patronage system for the grabbing of votes, volunteering becomes embezzlement, administrative transparency into corruption. Specifically, the attorney general asked for acquittal for one charge and the prescription for two counts.
For Lucano, who in 2018 spent a short period under house arrest and about a year banished from his town, he is contesting the crimes of criminal association, fraud, embezzlement, forgery and abuse of office. After having reconstructed the evidence and after having deemed some telephone interceptions unusable, the two substitute prosecutors asked for the conviction of 15 other defendants as well. For two, absolution was sought. The prosecution continuously considered the crimes for which the former mayor was called to answer. The sentence inflicted on Lucano in the trial of first instance had been almost double compared to the request of the public prosecutor of Locri, for which the former mayor was given seven years and 11 months.
However, Lucano’s lawyers say they are confident in view of the sentence. Pisapia and Daqua had filed an appeal, arguing that in the motivations there was a reconstruction of reality “macroscopically deformed compared to what emerged at the hearing,” but above all vitiated by a “harsh, polemical, bordering on insult” approach and the concern to find Lucano “guilty at all costs.” And the court’s decision to reopen the investigation for a 2017 wiretapping had rekindled hopes. This is a key recording, excluded in the first instance.
The judgment is expected for December, preceded by the defensive arguments. In the meantime, the former mayor has chosen civil disobedience: he does not intend to pay the provisional provision of €750,000 since it would be “an admission of guilt, and on appeal I do not expect the sentence to be mitigated. I do not accept even one day less. I want full absolution. I want the rehabilitation of our work. I want the light of truth.”
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