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Racism: Italy block action over slur on first black minister

By The Rainbow
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Italy’s most prominent black politician voiced dismay Thursday after fellow lawmakers blocked legal action against a far right politician who publicly compared her to an orangutan.

Cecile Kyenge, a DR Congo-born Italian MEP, was minister for integration in July 2013 when Northern League senator Roberto Calderoli made the slur at a political rally.

“When I see the pictures of Kyenge I cannot but think of the features of an orangutan, even if I’m not saying she is one,” he said in comments for which he subsequently apologised.

In a vote on Wednesday, the Italian Senate ruled that Calderoli could not be pursued for incitement to racial hatred because of constitutional provisions protecting lawmakers from prosecution over opinions expressed in their roles.

Kyenge said the Senate’s decision “throws a heavy shadow on the fight against racism, just when populism and xenophobia are growing because of the refugee crisis.”

She decided against resigning from the Democratic Party (PD) of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, some of whose members voted against allowing a prosecution to proceed.

Italy’s first black minister, Kyenge was subject to serial abuse during her time in government, including an incident in which she had bananas thrown at her as she gave a speech.

She voiced her objection to the Senate’s decision on the same day that an appeal court in France upheld a 10,000-euro ($11,000) fine imposed on right-wing magazine Minute for covers which compared the country’s black justice minister to a monkey.

The fine was imposed over a November 2013 cover which featured a picture of the minister Christiane Taubira alongside the headlines: “Crafty as a monkey” and “Taubira gets her banana back”

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