Europe

Wikileaks Julian Assange figures in Christmas nativity

A statuette of Julian Assange in the creche
Image caption Neapolitan nativity scenes often feature contemporary public figures as well as those from the Bible.

Arrested Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been honoured in Italy by being featured in a traditional Christmas nativity scene.

A miniature statue of Mr Assange, clutching a laptop computer, stands alongside figures from the story of the birth of Jesus.

Its creator, Gennaro Di Virgilio, said Mr Assange was the man of the year.

He is the latest in a long line of public figures to feature in a nativity scene in the city of Naples.

"I included him to poke a little fun at the world and have a good time," said Mr Di Virgilio, who each year chooses at least one contemporary character to sculpt.

So far he has made only one copy of the 6in (15cm) statue, which cost 130 euros (£110), but says he will make more if asked.

Neapolitan nativity scenes traditionally include others besides the Biblical characters.

Mr Di Virgilio's family has been making nativity statues since 1830.

He's one of dozens of sculptors who make them in the southern city's narrow Via San Gregorio Armeno street, and who use them to portray the signs of the times.

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One theme this year has been the city's rubbish crisis, which has seen refuse piled up in the streets.

That has led the craftsmen to create figures of Jesus, Mary and Joseph wearing protective masks on their faces.

Some have even put miniature bags of refuse in the scenes alongside the other figures.

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy in Rome says Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is facing a vote of confidence in parliament next week, is another popular statue this year.

There are versions of him on his knees asking his former wife for forgiveness for his alleged transgressions and one of him with a teenage Moroccan belly dancer called Ruby, who recently made allegations about him.

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