Mayor Sentenced to 13 Years in Prison, Convicted of Aiding Illegal Immigration

The former mayor of a small town in southern Italy was convicted Thursday of aiding illegal immigration and sentenced to 13 years and two months in prison, the Associated Press reported.

Domenico "Mimmo" Lucano was also found guilty of fraud, embezzlement, criminal association and abuse of office by the court in Calabria.

Lucano, who has denied committing any crimes, previously served as the mayor for Riace, also known as "the town of welcome." Prosecutors accused Lucano of helping to arrange marriages between Italian men in his town and foreign women, who would receive residency permits for Italy when married.

He also misused government money meant to assist migrants, including five million euros that ended up in private pockets rather than serving its intended purpose, prosecutors alleged. Lucano's face was one of disbelief as he heard his verdict and he was seen putting a hand on his forehead, the AP reported.

"I will be stained for life for wrongs I didn't commit,'' he said, as reported by the Italian news agency ANSA.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Italian Mayor Sentenced to Prison
Domenico 'Mimmo' Lucano, the former mayor of a small Italian town, was sentenced Thursday to 13 years and two months in prison after being convicted of aiding illegal immigration. Lucano arrives at Rome's La Sapienza University to deliver his speech for the students of university, on May 13, 2019 in Rome, Italy. Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Lucano's lawyers said they will appeal both the conviction and the sentence, which was some five years longer than what prosecutors had requested.

One of his lawyers, Giuliano Pisapia, a former left-wing mayor of Milan, had discounted that the trial was politically motivated. Still, he said, "without a doubt, there was certainly hostility against Lucano."

Lucano remains out of prison pending the outcome of final appeals.

Humanitarian groups that rescue migrants from traffickers' unseaworthy boats in the Mediterranean expressed outrage at the court's verdict and sentence.

"The former mayor of Riace gave life and future to his city through welcome and solidarity,'' tweeted Sea Watch Italy. "We are at the side of Mimmo Lucano and whoever practices solidarity every day."

Many migrants in Riace, a town of some 1,700 people, obtained municipal jobs, such as as street cleaners, while Lucano was mayor.

Another humanitarian group, Mediterranea Saving Humans, decried the verdict as "shameful." In a statement it described the trial's outcome as "the gravest repressive attack on the culture and the practice of solidarity in our country."

The charity added: "Who is poor or a migrant is forced to suffer every violence, and whoever helps them is considered a criminal."

Riace is famous for the discovery in 1972 of two ancient Greek statues at the bottom of the sea off the nearby coast. The statues are known as the Riace Bronzes.

Italian Mayor Sentenced to Prison
Domenico 'Mimmo' Lucano on Thursday was convicted of aiding illegal immigration, fraud, embezzlement, criminal association and abuse of office. Lucano arrives at Rome's La Sapienza University to deliver his speech for the students of university, on May 13, 2019 in Rome, Italy. Antonio Masiello/Getty Images