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Italy's Grillo under fire over son's rape defence

By AFP - Apr 21,2021 - Last updated at Apr 21,2021

ROME — The founder of Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement was under fire on Tuesday after defending his son from gang rape accusations, saying he was just “having fun”.

Beppe Grillo, whose party is the largest in the Italian parliament, was accused of sexism after publishing a video in which he dismissed the alleged victim’s claim because she waited eight days to go to the police.

“It’s all a lie, there was no rape,” a highly-agitated Grillo said in the video published on Monday.

The alleged rape dates back to July 2019, when Ciro Grillo, now 20, and three of his friends were holidaying in a luxury seaside resort in Sardinia.

The elder Grillo — a comedian-turned-politician known for his colourful language — called his son and his friends “four pricks, not four rapists”.

They were “having fun... jumping around with their penises”, he said.

The men reportedly filmed themselves having sex with the alleged victim, an Italian-Swedish model.

Grillo said the video proves that it was all “consensual... you can see the group laughing”.

His comments drew widespread condemnation, including from within his own party — with one M5S lawmaker saying it made her relive her own domestic abuse trauma.

“How can you say that an assault is not an assault if it is reported after eight days?” Federica Daga told the La Repubblica newspaper, revealing that she was abused by a former partner.

“I was beaten to death and persecuted by a man that I managed to report only six months after that nightmare ended.”

Maria Elena Boschi, a former minister from the centrist Italia Viva Party and a longtime M5S foe, called Grillo’s comments “full of sexism”.

The parents of the woman issued a statement saying they were “devastated” by Grillo’s comments and accusing him of “trying to belittle and ridicule” their family’s suffering.

Antonella Veltri, the head of D.i.Re, a support network for abused women, said his “ranting video” belied a “patriarchal culture” that endures in Italy.

According to Italian media, prosecutors have concluded their investigations and are in the coming days expected to made a decision on whether to go to trial.

The controversy could further deepen splits in M5S, which triumphed in 2018 elections and has been part of the government ever since, but is divided and floundering in polls.

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