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Italy’s Salvini calls for chemical castration for alleged rapists of American au pair

Italy's interior minister called for rape to be punishable by chemical castration after an American teenager said she was gang-raped by three men in Sicily.

Italy's Salvini calls for chemical castration for alleged rapists of American au pair
Italian police have arrested three men on suspicion of raping an American au pair. File photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

“No leniency for the molesting worms who raped a tourist,” Interior Minister Matteo Salvini tweeted on Wednesday. “Guaranteed jail time and chemical castration!”

The case concerns three Sicilian men who are accused of gang-raping an 19-year-old American woman in the city of Catania earlier this month. The suspects, reported to be aged between 19 and 20, were arrested last week having been identified from videos filmed throughout the evening on the group's phones.

According to the alleged victim, who had been working as an au pair for a local family for three months, she met the men in a bar on the evening of March 15th and, on the pretext of going to another bar together, they forced her into a car and drove to a remote area where they took turns to assault her.

Phone records published in the Italian press show that the woman repeatedly attempted to call the emergency number 112 and even 911, the US equivalent, during the almost two hours she says she was in the car, but the men allegedly cut off her calls. Fragments of the attack were reportedly recorded in WhatsApp voice messages that she sent to try to alert a friend, in which TGCOM24 reports that she can be heard to say “Help, help, I'm in a car” and “No, enough, I don't want to, I don't want to”.


Catania in eastern Sicily. Photo: Marie-Laure Messana/AFP

The men themselves filmed the attack on their phones, according to the woman, who says that one of them contacted her on social media the following day to ask if she wanted to go out again.

She reported the attack to the Italian police later that day and has since returned to the United States, reported Repubblica

Lawyers for the suspects complain that their clients, who have been named in the Italian press alongside pictures taken from their Facebook profiles, are being unfairly tried in the media. Maria Luisa Ferrari, a lawyer for one of the three suspects, told Repubblica that “a picture is emerging of 19-year-old boys who wanted to have fun and who lost control”.

That defence is unlikely to win sympathy from those who say Italy regularly fails to deliver justice for violence against women.

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Outcry over a series of recent rulings, including one court's decision to clear two men of rape because the woman was judged “too masculine” to be sexually attractive and another judge's leniency towards a man who murdered his wife on the grounds that she “humiliated” him by having an affair, last week prompted the government to propose tougher sentences for attacks on women and children.

Italy is currently debating whether to introduce an amendment that would allow men convicted of a sexual offence to opt for drug treatment designed to inhibit their sex drive – so-called chemical castration – in exchange for a suspended sentence. The proposal has been criticized by both women's rights defenders and doctors. 

Italian police were criticized for their handling of another high-profile rape case in 2017 involving two Americans in Florence, who reported being raped by on-duty carabinieri officers. Lawyers for the accused tried to paint the women as heavy-drinking and promiscuous, asking them questions such as “Were you wearing underwear that night?” and “Do you find men in uniform sexy?” 

One man was sentenced to four years and eight months for the Florence attack, while the other is due to go on trial in May. 

In Catania, mayor Salvo Pogliese said the American victim had “the deepest solidarity of the local community, which strongly condemns an extremely serious act that has hurt not only her dignity but Catania's reputation”.

READ ALSO: 'Violence against women conditions every aspect of our lives'


Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
 

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CRIME

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

Authorities in New York announced on Thursday the return to Italy of 14 more antiquities, worth an estimated €2.3 million, as part of an investigation into smuggling of stolen artifacts.

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has been conducting an extensive investigation over the past two years into looted antiquities that have ended up in New York museums and galleries — including the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During a ceremony on Thursday with the Italian consul general and Italian police representatives, 14 more artifacts – some 2,600 years old – were officially returned to Italy, bringing the total number of repatriated pieces to that country over the past seven months to 214, District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said.

READ ALSO: Italian ‘art squad’ police recover 800 illegally-excavated archaeological finds

More than 700 pieces worth more than $100 million have been returned in the past year to 17 countries, including Italy as well as Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Greece, the statement added.

New York, a hub of stolen antiquities trafficking for decades, set up a task force in 2017 to investigate the illicit trade.

According to the statement by District Attorney Bragg, who took office in January 2022, Thursday’s repatriation included the silver “Sicily Naxos Coin,” minted around 430 BCE and currently valued at half a million dollars.

Other notable items included ancient pottery dating to 510 BCE, and amarble head of Roman Emperor Hadrian, dating to 200 CE.

Among the culprits behind the 14 returned pieces, the statement said, were well-known art traffickers Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Franco Becchina, as well as Robert Hecht, the Paris-based American art dealer who died in 2012.

The traffickers had “relied on gangs of tombaroli (tomb raiders) to loot carefully chosen and insufficiently guarded archaeological sites throughout the Mediterranean,” it added.

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