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article imageItaly's Salvini demands apology after declaring athlete egg attack 'not racist'

By AFP     Aug 3, 2018 in World

Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is demanding an apology over reports he is stoking racism after claiming that a drive-by egg attack on a promising black Italian athlete wasn't racially motivated.

Salvini, also deputy prime minister, had been blasted for what the Italian left has called a climate of hate created by his anti-immigrant rhetoric following the attack on Daisy Osakue near northern city Turin on Sunday night, linked to a string of recent attacks on black people and immigrants.

The three teenage culprits were caught by police on Thursday and charged with assault, and Italian media reported that investigators linked them to similar attacks that targeted white Italians.

"Three quarters of Italian journalists took up column space talking about an athlete who was the victim of a racist attack. Rubbish: it was three spoiled brats who have fun by chucking eggs," Salvini, leader of the nationalist League, said in an interview with news channel Sky TG24.

"I expect an apology to the League and Italians."

Osakue, 22, the holder of the under-23 discus record (59.72m), was only Friday given the green light to travel with the Italian team to next week's European Championships, after worries that the treatment for her eye injuries might fall foul of anti-doping regulations.

Images of Osakue's face after the attack were all over Italian media the next day, with the athlete saying in television interviews that she believed her attackers were "looking for a person of colour, a woman" and mistook her for a prostitute, who work in the area.

Federico De Pascali, 19, who was discovered by police to have taken part in the assault, said in an interview with daily La Stampa that racism "had nothing to do" with the attack.

De Pascali, son of a left-wing town councillor in nearby Vinovo, says he was driving when two of his friends struck Osakue as she was returning home in the town of Moncalieri, and admitted that this wasn't their first egg-throwing escapade.

"We've thrown eggs at people before, just for a laugh," said De Pascali.

"I didn't want to hurt her. I'd really like to say sorry to her."

The assault had been linked with around 30 incidents of violence -- two fatal -- against African immigrants which have taken place since June.

A demonstration was held in the southern city of Naples on Friday after a young Senegalese street vendor was shot in the leg by assailants on a scooter on Thursday.

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