Rome mayor cleared in trial

Gulf Times - - EUROPE -

An Ital­ian judge has ac­quit­ted Rome mayor Vir­ginia Raggi of false tes­ti­mony in a trial over a se­nior job ap­point­ment within city hall, de­fus­ing a pos­si­ble cri­sis for her party, the rul­ing 5-Star Move­ment (M5S).

Raggi was elected mayor in 2016 in a vote that was seen at the time as a ma­jor break­through for the M5S, which has al­ways pro­moted a squeaky clean im­age and promised to clean up the cor­rup­tion-rid­dled Ital­ian cap­i­tal.

The 40-year old mayor was ac­cused of ly­ing about her in­volve­ment in the nom­i­na­tion of the di­rec­tor of the city’s tourism depart­ment, Re­nato Marra, brother of one of her clos­est aides.

Pros­e­cu­tors had asked for a 10-month prison sen­tence.

“This rul­ing clears away two years of mud-sling­ing. We will now go ahead, with our head held high, for Rome, my beloved city, and for its cit­i­zens,” Raggi said on Twit­ter.

The judge said Raggi was not guilty be­cause she was ei­ther not aware she was com­mit­ting a crime or did not know the real facts sur­round­ing Marra’s ap­point­ment.

Raggi hugged her hus­band and city coun­cil­lors stand­ing with her in the court­room af­ter the judge read out the ver­dict.

The M5S code of ethics says its elected of­fi­cials have to re­sign if they are con­victed, mean­ing Raggi would have had to step down if the rul­ing had gone against her, throw­ing city hall into chaos and leav­ing her party open to ridicule.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Luigi Di Maio, who is also leader of the M5S, said that Raggi had been “mas­sa­cred” and ac­cused jour­nal­ists of be­ing “worth­less jack­als” for sug­gest­ing in their re­ports that his party dump Raggi.

“The true plague of this coun­try is the ma­jor­ity of the me­dia, in­tel­lec­tu­ally and morally cor­rupt, which is wag­ing war against the govern­ment, try­ing to make it fall,” Di Maio added on Face­book.

Raggi’s many crit­ics say she has made lit­tle if any progress since tak­ing of­fice in re­solv­ing Rome’s myr­iad prob­lems, in­clud­ing a de­crepit trans­port net­work, pot-holed roads and an in­ef­fi­cient garbage ser­vice.

Thou­sands of peo­ple staged a demon­stra­tion in front of city hall last month, de­nounc­ing the ragged state of the city, but Raggi dis­missed the pro­test­ers and said she was mak­ing good head­way in her job.

More than 2mn Rome cit­i­zens will be called to­day to vote in a ref­er­en­dum to de­cide whether the city’s pub­lic trans­port ser­vices, run by a mu­nic­i­pal­i­ty­owned and bank­rupt com­pany, should be opened up to other com­pa­nies.

Raggi: This rul­ing clears away two years of mud-sling­ing.

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