Italy's top court rules fascist salute punishable only under 'apology' law
Italy's top court ruled Thursday that a fascist salute could be considered a criminal offense and punished as an "apology for fascism" only if performed as part of actions aiming to restore the banned Fascist party in the country.
According to the ruling of the Cassation Court, in such cases, magistrates can apply Italy's so-called Scelba Law, dating back to 1952, which states that "anyone, by taking part in public meetings, stages demonstrations used by the dissolved Fascist party or Nazi organisations is to be punished by detention of up to three years.”
The decision, however, acquired wider political meaning amid heated controversy sparked earlier this month by hundreds of neo-fascist militants, who performed the salute in commemoration of their dead "comrades" at a ceremony in Rome marking the 46th anniversary of the killing of three extreme-right activists from the Italian Social Movement (MSI).
In the video, which went viral, the men were standing in rows, making the stiff-armed salute and shouting "present."
After the latest episode, the opposition called for an intervention by the magistrates and for a clear condemnation of the neo-fascist display.
Since taking power in October, the Italian prime minister has tried to distance her party from its neo-fascist roots, saying that "fascism was handed over to history decades ago" and claiming that nostalgists of the Fascist era were not among its ranks.