An alleged gang rape has shocked Italy and provides fodder for the rising far right

Italy was rocked by the alleged gang rape of a 13-year-old girl in front of her boyfriend in a public park in the Sicilian city of Catania, the latest in a series of shocking sexual assaults in the country.

This case is reminiscent of two alleged gang rapes last summer. A group of seven men and teenage boys aged between 15 and 18 are currently on trial for the rape of a 19-year-old girl in Palermo in August.

Weeks later, nine young men They were arrested and charged For allegedly raping two cousins ​​aged 10 and 12 near Naples and broadcasting the attack live on social media. They also face trial.

Last month’s alleged gang rape in Catania has not only become a symbol of violence against women in the country, but also a high-profile issue for Italy’s far-right government. Catania police confirmed to CNN that the seven suspected perpetrators are all Egyptian immigrants, and three of them are under the age of 18.

CNN has contacted the suspect’s attorney for comment. Lawyers for three of them said that their clients denied involvement in the actual assault, while the others did not comment because their clients were minors.

This case was quickly exploited as evidence of the need to prevent immigrants from entering the country.

prime minister of italy, Georgia MeloniShe came to power in September 2022 on an anti-immigration platform, but her efforts to reduce irregular migration into the country have failed. So far it hasn’t worked.

Villa Bellini in Catania, Sicily, Italy, where a girl was raped.  - Aurita Scardino/EPA-EFE/ShutterstockVilla Bellini in Catania, Sicily, Italy, where a girl was raped.  - Aurita Scardino/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Villa Bellini in Catania, Sicily, Italy, where a girl was raped. – Aurita Scardino/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Catania police said the men accused in the latest Sicilian case entered Italy by boat in 2021 and 2022 as unaccompanied minors. Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo SalviniOne of the country’s most prominent far-right figures, He said on X They should not be allowed to stay.

Meanwhile, during a visit to Catania, Meloni expressed her solidarity with the alleged rape victim and her family.

She said: “The state will be there, and the state will ensure that justice is done.”

The ways in which cases between those with Italian suspects and those with Egyptian suspects are handled have already come under scrutiny.

The men accused of raping the 19-year-old woman in Palermo have been granted speedy trials, meaning they will be held behind closed doors and sealed, their lawyers told CNN.

Alessandro Fedone, a court-appointed lawyer representing two of the suspects, told CNN that lawyers have been appointed for the Egyptian suspects, and they have not yet entered a plea, but the prosecutor in the case has already filed additional charges linked to illegal immigration.

Those who are now over 18, and therefore not classified as unaccompanied minors, no longer have the right to remain in the country as Egyptians are not eligible for asylum in Italy.

The Italian Ministry of the Interior has called for a comprehensive review of all centers housing unaccompanied minors to see if there are similar cases.

Blame immigration

Italy has long had a problem with gender-based violence.

In November, both houses of Parliament unanimously approved a new measure that tightens penalties against perpetrators of gender-based violence and increases protection measures for women who fear for their lives.

The legislation was inspired by the case of Julia Chichetin, a 22-year-old woman who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. It was one of 118 cases of murder of women in Italy last year. In 2022, women were the victims of 91% of homicides committed by family members, partners or former partners, according to the European Data Journalism Network.

“Violence against women is a phenomenon that exists to some extent in all countries, caused by structural reasons such as disparities between men and women, stereotypes and prejudices,” Elena Biaggioni, vice president of DiRe, a national association that coordinates anti-violence centers and women’s shelters, said last June. .

Matteo Salvini said the suspects - who are Egyptian immigrants - should not be allowed to remain in Italy.  - Massimo De Vita/Mondadori Portfolio/Getty ImagesMatteo Salvini said the suspects - who are Egyptian immigrants - should not be allowed to remain in Italy.  - Massimo De Vita/Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images

Matteo Salvini said the suspects – who are Egyptian immigrants – should not be allowed to remain in Italy. – Massimo De Vita/Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images

Speaking at a protest after a pregnant woman was stabbed to death by her partner, she added: “But of course in countries where there is a stronger masculine culture and sexism, like Italy, this violence is justified in a different way.”

However, in the latest case, officials focused their attention on the background of the alleged perpetrators.

The judge investigating the latest case, Carlo Humberto Cannella, said the suspects were likely to return to commit other crimes because they were “not accustomed to civilization.”

He ordered them all to remain in prison while the investigation was conducted.

“It seems clear that there is a risk of the crime being repeated also in light of the fact that the horror only ended thanks to the girl’s attempt to free herself,” Cannella said on Wednesday, ruling that the suspects would not be released on bail. According to the court spokesman.

In a scathing editorial in the right-leaning newspaper Il Giornale, founded by the family of late former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, editors also blamed immigration for the alleged rape in Sicily.

“Why are these individuals, without any requirement for international protection, still in Italy and not subject to expulsion?” The editors wrote.

“Because they declared upon their arrival to our country that they were minors and the law prohibits the rejection of illegal immigrants who have not yet reached the age of majority. Now they will stand trial for rape, but in the meantime, that little girl will forever carry with her the pain and trauma of the rape, which she suffered when she was only 13 years old. This is not the first case in which minors from outside the European Union have been welcomed into Italian facilities and then engaged in criminal activities.

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(tags for translation)Unaccompanied minors

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