A member of Italy’s rightist League party was placed under house arrest on Wednesday after shooting dead a Moroccan immigrant following an altercation in a bar.
Massimo Adriatici, a League councillor in the northern town of Voghera, killed the 39-year-old man on Tuesday night. Police named the dead migrant as Youns El Boussetaoui and said they were investigating the shooting.
The case touched off a political furore, with League leader Matteo Salvini leaping to the defence of Adriatici, a former policeman who had a gun licence, while opponents questioned why he was carrying a firearm in a public place.
Local media said the row broke out between the two men in a bar in central Voghera. Adriatici was quoted as saying that the gun went off after El Boussetaoui pushed him to the ground as he was trying to call the police.
Salvini, a former interior minister whose party has adopted an anti-migrant platform, said Adriatici was well respected in the local community.
“The victim of an assault, he responded and accidentally fired a shot,” Salvini said in a video posted on social media, going on to say that Adriatici had probably acted in self defence, suggesting that El Boussetaoui had a criminal record.
Political opponents criticised the League leader for jumping to conclusions before the police had completed their investigation.
“Everyone, without exception, must condemn the logic of the Far West and do-it-yourself justice,” said Vinicio Peluffo, head of the centre-left Democratic Party in the northern Lombardy region.
“If the League thinks that carrying weapons brings security, then that is really worrying, because it only brings bloodshed and certainly not law and order,” he said.
Like other European Union countries, Italy has tough laws regulating both ownership and use of firearms and gun deaths are rare. Adriatici, who was nicknamed locally “the sheriff”, was in charge of the security portfolio within the town council.