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Arsonists torch Melania Trump statue in Slovenia

July 9, 2020

The sculpture of the US first lady stood close to her hometown of Sevnica, Slovenia. It had attracted controversy, with some calling it a scarecrow while others likened it to the Virgin Mary.

A statue depicting the first lady of the US, Melania Trump, near her birthplace in Sevnici, Slovenija
Image: picture-alliance/B. Zivulovic

Arsonists set fire to a wooden statue representing United States first lady Melania Trump in her birth country of Slovenia, local media reported on Wednesday.

The incident took place on July 4, when Independence Day in the US is celebrated.

Police have no leads on the "unknown vandals" but are continuing to investigate, according to media reports.

The statue was commissioned by US artist Brad Downey and created by Slovenian local folk artist Ales Zupevc, who carved the sculpture with a chainsaw from the trunk of a tree.

The figure was roughly-cut and had no facial features. It was painted with a pale blue wraparound coat that resembled the one Melania Trump wore at the inauguration of her husband US President Donald Trump.

Read more: Slovenian tourism stirs 'Melania' hype

A statue depicting the first lady of the US, Melania Trump, near her birthplace in Sevnici, Slovenija
Police have launched an investigation into the burning of the statueImage: picture-alliance/B. Zivulovic

Downey said he had the life-sized blackened, disfigured sculpture removed as soon as police informed him of the incident on July 5.

"I want to know why they did it," said Downey.

It was not clear whether burning the statue was an artistic act, said Slovenian national broadcaster RTV.

Controversial statue

The statue has been described on social media as a scarecrow while other critics saw the work as a representation of the Virgin Mary.

Downey said he wanted the statue to stimulate debate around the political situation in the US, particularly on immigration.

In recent weeks, anti-racism demonstrators have pulled down or defaced a number of statues of prominent figures deemed to have colonial or racist connections, following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

In response, Trump pledged to take a hard line on anyone destroying or vandalizing US historical monuments.

In January, a large wooden statue resembling Donald Trump, designed by a local artist last year, was burnt in Slovenia's city of Moravce, east of the capital Ljubljana.

kmm/rs (dpa, Reuters)