Italian in Europe’s Parliament Convicted of Defamation for Racial Insult

He also said that as a doctor working for the national health service, Ms. Kyenge had taken the job of an Italian doctor.

Ms. Kyenge became the target of racial slurs and death threats on social media, weeks into her tenure as minister. She said in an interview on Friday that though she had won other defamation cases, Mr. Borghezio’s conviction had been the most important.

“The fact that the European Parliament stripped him of immunity is a strong signal on the part of member states that the words that people use carry weight,” she said. “This is a fundamental battle.” She added that “if you are a public figure representing a nation,” you have to be held accountable for what you say.

Ms. Kyenge said she was still waiting to receive the damages she had won in other defamation cases. “That’s going to take years,” she said.

Mr. Borghezio said on Friday that though he respected the court’s ruling, he felt as though he had been “politically persecuted” by Ms. Kyenge’s party, the Democrats, in the European Parliament. He added that his comments had fallen within his right as an opposition lawmaker to criticize a government minister.

“My fight was for the right to political criticism” and free speech, he said. “What I said didn’t warrant this treatment; this is persecution,” he added, promising to continue speaking his mind. “If I think a minister is doing something wrong, I will criticize; that is the duty of an opposition politician.”

Mr. Borghezio also said he thought the damages were “exceedingly high.” He told the news agency ANSA that the costs would force him to sell his home.

Ms. Kyenge said that the many messages of support she had received after the sentence was made public Thursday confirmed her belief that Italy was “not a racist country.”

She expressed…

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