ROME – An Italian court acquitted on Saturday the mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, who faced trial for allegedly giving false testimony over the appointment of a senior city hall official, in a verdict celebrated by her party, the ruling 5-Star Movement (M5S).
The court decided to dismiss the prosecution’s request for a 10-month prison sentence for Raggi, who was elected Rome’s first woman mayor in 2016.
“This ruling sweeps away two years of mud,” Raggi reacted on Twitter. “Let us go on with our heads held high for Rome, my beloved city, and for all citizens.”
After hearing the verdict, Raggi burst into tears and embraced her defense attorneys while several sympathizers in the courtroom broke into applause, according to local media.
Raggi had been charged with making false statements in relation to the appointment of the Italian capital’s top tourism official, Renato Marra.
The opposition accused Raggi of having named Marra to the senior post after he was allegedly recommended by his brother, Raffaele Marra, who at the time was the city government’s chief of staff and was later arrested for alleged corruption crimes.
Prosecutors said the mayor, a lawyer by training, knowingly lied when telling the National Anti-Corruption Authority (ANAC) that she had independently selected Marra as head of the tourism department instead of acting on his brother’s advice.
The trial was closely followed throughout Italy, since a guilty verdict would have meant Raggi’s immediate downfall as the M5S’ internal rules force any member convicted of a corruption-related offense to resign from their elected post.
The party’s leader, current Deputy Prime Minister and Labor Minister Luigi Di Maio, had signaled that he would strictly enforce the code of conduct, despite the symbolic and political importance of holding the millennial capital’s local government.
Raggi’s possible resignation would have meant the termination of the entire city council, which would have prompted the national Italian government to appoint a commissar to manage the city until after snap elections were held.
Di Maio also celebrated Raggi’s acquittal on Twitter after re-tweeting the mayor’s own statement.
“Virginia acquitted! And now, forward,” he wrote, along with a hashtag referencing the “heads held high” slogan.