A global coalition of public figures and parliamentarians including Noam Chomsky, Ada Colau, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Carola Rackete, Yanis Varoufakis, Niki Ashton and Jeremy Corbyn have today (Monday) written to Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi, president Sergio Mattrella, minister of the interior Luciana Lamorgese, and minister of justice Marta Cartabia demanding charges against former mayor of Riace, Domenico ‘Mimmo’ Lucano, be dropped immediately.
As mayor of Riace (2004-2018), Lucano came to prominence for welcoming migrants. Riace was known as a dying town with its population in freefall. Lucano resettled hundreds of migrant families, breathing new life into the town, and was rewarded with three terms as mayor with his “program of hospitality, rejuvenation, and abundance”. He won international acclaim as runner up in the 2010 World Mayor competition, featuring in Fortune’s 2016 list of greatest world leaders and was awarded the Dresden Peace Prize.
In 2018 he stepped down as mayor and was soon in the crosshairs of far-right politician Matteo Salvini, who became interior minister and placed Lucano under house arrest and accused him of “colonising Italy with migrants.” In September of last year, the courts handed down a shocking 13 year prison sentence on Lucano. He is appealing the judgement.
Following his conviction, Lucano appealed to the Progressive International (PI), a global network that unites, mobilises and organises progressive forces, for help. In a letter to the PI, released publicly today, he requested “support to fight the charges set against me, to stand up for the migrants shut out of our society, and to dismantle the fortress that has been constructed along the borders of Europe.”
In response, the PI, in alliance with DiEM25 and Catalunya en Comú, has launched a global campaign to free Lucano, organising the letter to the Italian authorities demanding the charges against him be dropped.
In an open letter to Lucano, released today (Monday), the Progressive International said:
“We believe that the Riace model is an inspiration for the world. When our governments built fortresses to keep migrants out, you welcomed them in. When local criminals and global corporations conspired to exploit their lack of legal protections, you built a global village and a Città Futura — a city of the future — where all residents could learn trades and find shelter.”
“We are unequivocal: Your 13-year sentence is both a travesty of justice and a blatant violation of the common principles of freedom, democracy, equality, peace and stability that the European Union claims to uphold.”
Former mayor of Riace Domenico Lucano said:
“The stakes of this case are much higher than my own freedom. Solidarity itself is on trial. No crime was committed in our town of Riace. The crimes are those of our government in Rome, which denies the most basic rights to the refugees that live here, and leaves them to drown on the Mediterranean Sea instead.”
Noam Chomsky, a member of the PI’s Council, said:
“Domenico Lucano offered real hope for revitalization of Riace and for its becoming a model for others. His punishment is a disgrace. He should be released at once and helped to carry forward the important work he had initiated.”
Jeremy Corbyn, former leader of the UK Labour Party and member of the PI’s Council, said:
“Our demand is quite simple: drop the charges. Mimmo and his co-defendants are decent humanitarians, who have supported victims of war and misfortune around the world, revived their community and offered an example to the world. Refugees are people just like us trying to find a place of safety. The hospitality of the people of Riace should be rightly seen as the height of human civilisation, not having to defend itself in court.”
Yanis Varoufakis, member of the Hellenic Parliament, DiEM25 co-founder and member of PI’s Council, said:
“Our television screens are full of sad pictures of refugees fleeing from the warzone in Ukraine and being welcomed in the rest of Europe. The way we treat refugees is indicative of our humanity.
“Mimmo Lucano is being dragged through the courts and fined ridiculous sums of money for doing that which we celebrate when it comes to Ukrainians. Double standards are the poison of the soul.”
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