Italy’s Salvini to apologize if Tunisian teenager drug accusation proves false
Italian far-right politician Matteo Salvini said on Friday he will apologize if the Tunisian teenager he questioned about selling drugs in Bologna is not, in fact, a drug dealer.
Salvini triggered a backlash for remarks he made during a visit to the city of Bologna on Tuesday, where he was campaigning ahead of a key regional election.
“If he is not a drug dealer then he will have all my apologies…I will leave it to the police to find the truth,” said Salvini, leader of Italy’s League party, during an interview with Italian television channel Rai 3.
After ringing the doorbell of an apartment of a Tunisian immigrant family, Salvini said he heard drugs are sold there and asked whether it was true.
In wake of being hung up on, Salvini asked the crowd around him, “That was him? He’s Tunisian?” He then buzzed the residence a second time, saying he wanted to “restore the family’s good name because someone says that you and your son deal drugs.”
The incident, captured on-camera by journalists, went viral.
The 17-year-old son who answered the door denied the allegation and said his father was deeply saddened by the episode.
“I’m not a drug dealer. I play football,” the son said in a video posted by Italian news outlet La Repubblica.
The teenager added that his older brother had problems with drugs in the past but is now clean and no longer lives with the family.
A woman in the neighborhood, whose son died of a drug overdose, allegedly told the former Italian minister a drug dealer lived in the apartment.
A day after the incident, Salvini said he did not regret his actions.
“I did well to buzz, I don't regret it at all, I don't care if drug dealers are Italian or Tunisian. Drugs kill. Whoever picks the League, picks the fight against drugs,” Salvini wrote on Twitter.
The episode sparked a diplomatic reaction by Tunisia’s Ambassador to Italy Moez Sinaoui who told Al Arabiya English the conduct displayed by Salvini was unacceptable, particularly from a senator of the Italian Republic.
“You cannot stigmatize the entire [Tunisian] community. There are excellent relations between our two countries. These incidents damage the image of the Italian people in the world,” said Sinaoui.