An Italian football hooligan has been arrested and charged with murder after beating to death a Nigerian asylum seeker who reacted to racial insults against his partner, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said Thursday.
According to the La Repubblica newspaper, Emmanuel Chidi Namdi, 36, got into a fight on Tuesday after the man called his 24-year-old girlfriend Chinyery - referred to only by her first name - a "monkey."
Namdi was taken to hospital in a comatose state and declared dead on Wednesday in the central Italian town of Fermo, some 170 kilometres north-east of Rome, near the Adriatic coast.
The accused, Amedeo Mancini, is a supporter of 4th league team Fermana and had been banned from the local stadium because of his violent behaviour, ANSA news agency reported.
The incident led Alfano to travel to Fermo to chair a meeting with local police. Before the talks, he told reporters it was a "day of infinite sadness."
The minister later said Mancini's actions were racially motivated, an aggravating circumstance which could earn the accused a longer jail sentence, and that Chinyery's asylum demand had been accepted.
"She has been granted humanitarian protection status," Alfano said.
Italy's highest authorities also weighed in on the case.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi wrote on Twitter that the government was committed to fight "hatred, racism and violence," while President Sergio Mattarella delegated Fermo's authorities to offer Chinyery "any kind of required assistance."
"What happened is shocking and deeply disturbs the principle of international protection which, aside from the international obligation of states, should be rooted in everybody's conscience," UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) executive Stephane Jaquemet said in a statement.
Comunita di Capodarco, the Catholic charity that was giving shelter to the couple, issued a statement giving a version provided by Chinyery. She said the man put his hands on her, triggering Namdi's reaction.
"A fight broke out, a street sign was pulled from the pavement, there were heavy blows and one, probably fatal, hit the young Nigerian on the back of the neck. Once on the floor ... the young man was hit repeatedly," the Comunita said.
The couple left Nigeria to flee from the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, their hosts said.
Chinyery travelled while pregnant, but fell ill during the sea crossing to Sicily and lost her baby, probably as a result of beatings suffered in Libya, they added.
Father Vinicio Albanesi, who leads the community that sheltered the couple, said the people who attacked the asylum seekers were the same who earlier this year planted unexploded bombs in front of four Catholic churches in Fermo. Alfano said he could not confirm this.
"There are small group of people who clearly think they belong to the Aryan race," Albanesi said, as quoted by Comunita di Capodarco. "They belong to local football fan groups and I think it is the same clique who has put bombs in front of our churches."