Italian president condemns racist attack on Indian

February 4th, 2009 - 6:40 pm ICT by IANS  

London/Rome, Feb 4 (IANS) The Italian president has called for a stop to xenophobia and racist violence as outrage grew after an Indian man was beaten and set on fire near Rome.Navtej Singh Sidhu, a 35-year-old homeless construction worker, was Wednesday fighting for his life after being attacked while sleeping rough at a train station at the seaside town of Nettuno near Rome Sunday.

Police have arrested two adults and a minor, who have confessed to pouring petrol on him and setting him on fire.

President Giorgio Napolitano condemned the attack, saying it was one of many such “horrifying episodes” seen in Italy.

“By now, these cannot be considered as isolated events but as alarming symptoms of a widespread trend that is unfortunately growing,” he said.

“I appeal strongly to those who have institutional, cultural and educational responsibility to commit themselves fully to putting a stop to any display of xenophobia, racism and violence.”

Police said the three men admitted they had attacked the Indian immigrant in order to “cap off” a night on the town, fuelled by drugs and alcohol, by doing something “sensational, to experience an intense emotion”, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Italy has seen a string of racist attacks over the last year, including the burning of gypsy camps in Naples in May and the killing of an immigrant from Burkina Faso in September in Milan.

A Chinese immigrant was beaten up by teenagers while waiting for a bus in Rome in October and a young student from Ghana was beaten by Parma traffic police who mistook him for a drugs pusher.

Meanwhile, Italian Jewish leaders expressed solidarity with Sidhu.

“When we [Jews] are the object of hostile acts, we receive support from all sides, and we want to do the same in this case,” said Rome’s Jewish community president, Riccardo Pacifici.

“We feel a vital part of Italy and join in protest with everyone against such actions,” said Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni.

Sidhu has severe burns on more than 40 percent of his body, said Dr. Paolo Palombo of Sant’Eugenio hospital in Rome.

Indian diplomats in Rome, who have spoken to Sidhu, say his condition remains critical and that he will be operated upon Friday.

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno visited Sidhu in hospital and assured Indian diplomats he would receive the best possible treatment.

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