Italy's top court: fascist salutes are not always a crime

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
Italy's top court: fascist salutes are not always a crime
Far-right militants make the Fascist salute during a rally celebrating the anniversary of the 'March on Rome' in Predappio, birthplace of Fascist dictator Mussolini. (Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP)

Neofascist groups praised an Italian Supreme Court ruling on Thursday which said making the fascist salute was only a crime if it "endangers public order".


Italy’s highest court said in the ruling that making the gesture was only a criminal offence if doing so posed a threat to public order or risked leading to a revival of the banned Fascist party.

The Court of Cassation's ruling came after a shocking video showed hundreds of people making fascist salutes during an event in Rome on January 7th, leading to a public outcry.

In issuing the ruling, the court also ordered a second appeals trial for eight far-right militants who made the fascist, or Roman, salute during an event in Milan in 2016.

Judges concluded that the fascist "roll call" ceremony - during which participants reply "Present" while making the salute, as they did in Rome on January 7th - is an offence, AFP reported.

The judges said these were rituals "evocative of the gestures typical of the dissolved Fascist party" of former dictator Benito Mussolini.

But they added that no crime is committed under Italy's rarely-applied Scelba law, which bans 'apology for Fascism', if the gestures are carried out during a "commemoration", and if it cannot be proven that those involved have intentions of reviving the Fascist party.

The judges also said another law, the 1993 Mancino law, which criminalises racially-motivated violence and hate speech, could be used. But the courts must decide.

READ ALSO: What are Italy’s laws against support for fascism?

Mass gatherings of far-right groups at which fascist symbols are openly displayed are a regular occurrence in Italy, such as at the annual events in the town of Predappio, Mussolini's birthplace.

The event in Rome this month made international headlines and led to fresh calls for Italy to strengthen its laws restricting the public celebration of fascism.


Emilio Ricci of the anti-fascist National Association of Italian Partisans (ANPI) told AFP that, rather than being ambiguous, the ruling had clarified how neo-fascists can be prosecuted, and called on authorities to charge the participants of the January 7th event.

"I hope the prosecutors will indict them for violation of the Scelba and Mancino laws," Ricci said.

Ten people are reportedly under investigation over the event, which was a commemoration of the 1978 Acca Larentia massacre in which three far-right youth militants died.

The three killed were members of the youth wing of the now-defunct Italian Social Movement (MSI), a political party founded by Mussolini's lingering supporters after the second world war, which eventually became Brothers of Italy (FdI), prime minister Giorgia Meloni's party.


Meloni, who began her political career as an MSI activist, has maintained silence over the January 7th incident in Rome despite growing calls for her to condemn it.

While Meloni has repeatedly insisted that her party's post-fascist roots are in the past, she continues to use the former Fascist party slogan, “God, family, fatherland”, and has rejected calls to alter the party logo, which still features the tricolour flame symbol also used by the MSI.

Casapound, the neofascist group which organised the event in Rome, celebrated the court’s ruling on Thursday as “an historic victory”.

“We will continue making the Roman salute,” a Casapound spokesperson told Italy's Ansa news agency.


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