Italy’s first black minister has said she feels “vindicated” after winning a four-year court battle against a far-right MEP who made repeated racist slurs against her.
Mario Borghezio has been order to pay Cécile Kyenge 50,000 euros ($55,690; £42,895) by a court in Milan.
Among other comments, Borghezio said she “took away a job from an Italian doctor” in a 2013 radio interview.
The Northern League MEP must also pay Ms Kyenge’s legal fees.
Borghezio – who was briefly suspended by his party in 2011 for saying he agreed with parts of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik’s manifesto – reportedly said he would lose his house following the ruling.
However, Ms Kyenge, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, told the BBC’s Newsday radio programme: “At the end of the day this is a strong message against impunity. those who believe there is no justice should think twice.
“Through this verdict the younger generations have also learned that a civilised society is based on mutual respect, and zero tolerance for discrimination.”
Ms Kyenge, who trained as an ophthalmologist in Italy, found herself subject to abuse after she was named as integration minister in 2013 – including having bananas thrown at her during a political rally and being compared to an orang-utan.
She was provided with police protection, but decided to pursue Borghezio through the courts after the 2013 interview, in which he also said “Africans are Africans and belong to an ethnic group very different from ours”.
He had previously said she wanted to “bring her tribal traditions to Italy”, according to local media.
Ms Kyenge, who is now an MEP herself, said: “Italy has become a country of immigration, things have changed so quickly now many Italians have not been able to adjust to the new environment, many cannot cope with communities which look different.”
However, she also told the BBC the support she had received since proved “Italy is not a racist country”.