‘Mimmo’ Domenico Lucano.
The Court of Appeal of Reggio Calabria has reduced the harsh sentences imposed on the ‘Mimmo’ Domenico Lucano, former mayor of Riace Municipality. In 2019, a lower court indicted Mimmo for ‘abetting illegal migration’ and sentenced him to 13 years and 2 months in prison. The ruling on October 11 by Judge Elisabetta Palumbo, president of the Court of Appeal in Reggio Calabria, reduced the sentence to one year and six months of imprisonment.
All the other 17 defendants related to the case were also acquitted by the appeal court. Groups including Potere al Popolo (Power to the People), Unione Popolare, Communist Refoundation Party (PRC), and other have expressed joy at the acquittal of Mimmo from most of the charges and many activists also called for the total exoneration of the former mayor from all the false charges attributed on him.
Domenico Lucano aka Mimmo was the mayor of the Riace Municipality in Reggio Calabria from 2004 to 2018. During his tenure, he implemented an innovative approach to dealing with the influx of refugees coming to Italy during the peak of the migrant crisis.
He helped to rehabilitate hundreds of refugee families in his town and reversed the de-population trend in the area, which has been termed the ‘Riace Model’ of refugee accommodation and hailed as a plausible humanitarian solution to the refugee crisis faced in Europe. Both the Riace Model and Lucano have received many regional and international accolades including the Dresden Peace Prize.
Still, in 2018, Italian police put Lucano under house arrest for “promoting illegal migration” and in 2019, a lower court indicted him and several others of criminal association, fraud, embezzlement, forgery, and abuse of office to facilitate illegal migration to the country. The case against the Mimmo and Riace model was a mainstay of the notorious anti-refugee and anti-migrant policies of the then-Italian Interior Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini.
During Slavini’s tenure as the Interior Affairs Minister (2018-2019), the Italian government has waged a war against refugees by closing down immigrant reception centers, closing Italian ports to migrant boats and rescue ships carrying migrants from the war-torn countries of North Africa, etc. Salvini was also instrumental in revoking the license of rescue ships and prosecuting the crew of those ships operated by voluntary organizations that cater to stranded refugees in the Mediterranean.
The Communist Refoundation Party (PRC) released a statement praising the judgement and said that “We have always repeated that Mimmo was not a criminal but a generous comrade who dedicated everything of himself to the rebirth of his land and human solidarity. After this ruling, all the political representatives of the right-wing, Democratic Party (PD), and the Five Star Movement (M5S) should be ashamed of themselves who triggered inspections against Mimmo.”
“Riace’s experience has shown that welcoming could and can be realized in a positive way for the whole community, such as [providing] job opportunities, cultural enrichment, and revitalization of the territory. They tried to destroy the Riace model because they want to fill the peninsula with prisons for migrants to do business in,” added the party.