Italy's top court rules fascist salute punishable only under 'apology' law

Fri, 19 Jan 2024 6:41 GMT
Court of Cassation's verdict closely watched amid heated political controversy over recent neo-fascist rally.
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.”

According to its first interpretations, the ruling would exclude from criminal prosecution those Fascist salutes performed as part of commemorations or private gatherings.

The Cassation Court had been called to rule over the case of eight far-right militants who performed the salute during a commemoration in Milan in 2016.

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."

The MSI, now defunct, was founded as a neo-fascist party after World War II and over the years developed into the Brothers of Italy party of sitting Premier Giorgia Meloni.

Meloni's right-wing government has been repeatedly asked by the center-left opposition to dissolve neo-fascist groups, which are banned by Italy's anti-fascist Constitution.

After the latest episode, the opposition called for an intervention by the magistrates and for a clear condemnation of the neo-fascist display.

While some Brothers of Italy members have stigmatized the incident, Meloni has stopped short of doing so.

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.

During her election campaign, Meloni presented the Brothers of Italy as a conservative party, focused on anti-migration policies and nationalistic issues.

But, according to Meloni's critics, the Brothers of Italy's neo-fascist roots have never been fully eradicated.


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