The northern Italian city of Treviso has witnessed mass demonstrations after the deputy mayor called for the ethnic cleansing of homosexuals.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the city hall at the weekend demanding his resignation.

Giancarlo Gentilini, told a local television station on Wednesday: “I will immediately give orders to my forces so that they can carry out an ethnic cleansing of faggots.

“The faggots must go to other (cities) where they are welcome. Here in Treviso there is no chance for faggots or the like.”

The clip was posted on the website YouTube.com – click here to view.

His comments came as a response to gay men allegedly using a nearby car park for pickups.

Mr Gentilini, 78, was mayor of the city from 1994 to 1998 and 1998 to 2003.

A member of the right-wing and regionalistic Northern League political group, he is notorious in Italy for his attention-grabbing outbursts.

Treviso is a city of 250,000 close to Venice. Clothing company Benetton’s headquarters are located there.

The political community across Italy has widely criticised Mr Gentilini’s comments.

Rosy Bindi, a Family Minister in the Italian government, told ANSA: “The term ‘ethnic cleansing’ evokes tragic chapters of history which have brought death and suffering to millions of people.

“Nobody, and certainly not somebody with public responsibility, is authorised to use such language.”

Aurelio Mancuso, head of gay rights group Arcigay, said: “Today’s protest, which is joined by hundreds of people, will not be the last. It will be the first in a long series.”

The Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, is viewed as a supporter of the LGBT community and was elected promising a civil partnership law.

Italy elected Europe’s first transgender MP in 2006.

Mr Gentilini’s comments are being examined by local prosecutors, but a criminal investigation is not currently being pursued.