Italy, shaken by the case of an alleged gang rape of a 13-year-old girl. The acts took place right in front of her friend

Italy is shaken by the case of an alleged gang rape of a 13-year-old girl, facts that allegedly took place right in front of her friend in a public park in the Sicilian city of Catania.

The case recalls two other alleged gang rapes from the summer of last year. A group of seven teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 are currently on trial for allegedly raping a 19-year-old girl in Palermo in August. A few weeks later, nine young men were arrested and accused of raping two cousins ​​aged 10 and 12 near Naples and of broadcasting the attack live on social networks. And they will be judged.

Last month’s alleged gang rape in Catania has become not only a symbol of violence against women in the country, but also a political cause for the ultra-conservative Italian government. The seven alleged perpetrators were all Egyptian migrants, three of them under the age of 18, Catania police confirmed to CNN.

CNN has reached out to the suspects’ lawyers for comment. Lawyers for three of them said their clients denied involvement in the actual assault, while the others declined to comment because their clients are minors.

The case was quickly taken up as proof that the entry of immigrants into the country should be blocked. Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni came to power in September 2022 with an anti-immigration platform, but her efforts to reduce illegal immigration into the country have so far been unsuccessful.

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The young men accused in Sicily’s latest gang rape case entered Italy by boat in 2021 and 2022 as unaccompanied minors, according to Catania police. Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, one of the country’s most vocal far-right figures, said they should not have been allowed to stay in the country.

Meanwhile, during a visit to Catania, Giorgia Meloni expressed her solidarity with the alleged rape victim and her family. “The state will be there, and the state will guarantee that justice will be done”she promised.

But the way in which the cases with Italian suspects and those with Egyptian suspects are treated is already attracting attention. The boys accused of raping the 19-year-old woman in Palermo will have expedited proceedings, their lawyers told CNN, meaning the trials will be held behind closed doors.

The Egyptian suspects have been appointed ex officio attorneys and have yet to plead, but the prosecutor in the case has already filed additional charges related to illegal immigration, Alessandro Fidone, the court-appointed attorney representing two of the suspects, told CNN. Those who have now passed the age of 18 and are therefore not classified as unaccompanied minors, no longer have the right to remain in the country, as Egyptians do not qualify for asylum in Italy.

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

Italy has been struggling with the problem of gender-based violence for a long time. In November, both houses of parliament unanimously adopted a new measure that toughens 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 Giulia Cecchettin, a 22-year-old woman killed by an ex-boyfriend. She was one of 118 women murdered in Italy last year. In 2022, women were the victims of 91% of homicides committed by family members, partners or ex-partners, according to the European Data Journalism Network.

Violence against women is a phenomenon more or less present in all countries, caused by structural causes such as the disparity between men and women, stereotypes and prejudices”, said last June Elena Biaggioni, vice president of DiRe, a national association that coordinates anti-violence centers and women’s shelters. Speaking at a protest after a pregnant woman was allegedly stabbed to death by her partner, she added: “But, of course, in countries where there is a macho culture and sexism is stronger, such as Italy, this violence is justified in a different way.”.

In the most recent case, the officials focused their attention on the past of the alleged aggressors. The judge who investigated the most recent case, Carlo Umberto Cannella, said the suspects were likely to reoffend because they were not “aget used to civilization”. He ruled that they should all remain in prison while the investigation is ongoing.

In a harsh opinion piece published in the right-wing newspaper Il Giornale, founded by the family of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, the editors also blamed migration for the alleged rape in Sicily. “Why are these individuals, without any qualification to claim international protection, still in Italy and not expelled?”, the editors wrote. “Because upon arrival in our country they declared themselves minors, and the law prevents the rejection of immigrants in an irregular situation who have not yet reached the age of majority. Now they will be tried for rape, but in the meantime, that little girl will forever carry with her the pain and trauma of the rape, suffered at only 13 years old. This is not the first case of minors from outside the EU who are received in Italian institutions and who then become involved in criminal activities”shows Il Giornale.

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