The verdict is a “historic victory,” according to an Italian neo-fascist movement spokesman
The act of performing a fascist salute is not a crime, a ruling from Italy’s top court has said, unless doing so poses a risk to public order or contributes to a revival of fascist politics.
In its Thursday judgment, Rome’s Supreme Court of Cassation said that a second appeals trial must take place for a group of eight neo-fascist militants who performed the gesture – known in Italy as the ‘Roman salute’ – at a commemorative event in Milan in 2016.
“The decision of the cassation court establishes that the Roman salute is not a crime unless there is a concrete danger of the reconstruction of the fascist party, as provided by Article 5 of the Scelba law, or there are concrete aims of racial discrimination and violence, as provided by the Mancino law,” Domenico Di Tullio, a lawyer representing two of the defendants, told Italian media, according to The Guardian.
The Scelba law of 1952 made it illegal to promote fascism and banned the reintroduction of Benito Mussolini’s fascist party into Italian politics. The Mancino law, introduced in 1993, made racist violence and hate speech illegal.
The court’s ruling effectively means that the fascist salute is permitted at public events, such as a recent rally in Rome during which hundreds of men used the gesture outside the former headquarters of the now defunct Italian Social Movement (MSI) party.
The annual event commemorates the deaths of three militants from the MSI youth wing in Milan in 1975. CasaPound, the neo-fascist group that organizes the event, hailed the Italian court’s verdict as “an historic victory.”
“Of course, we will continue making the Roman salute,” Luca Marsella, a spokesman for the group, said, according to the ANSA news agency.
MSI, a neo-fascist party formed after World War II, was one of the political movements that would eventually transform into the ruling Brothers of Italy party, led by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
However, Meloni has insisted that her party has no “nostalgic fascists, racists or antisemites in the Brothers of Italy DNA.” Despite this statement, Brothers of Italy has refused to drop MSI imagery from its official logo.
Meloni has faced renewed calls to take action against neo-fascist elements in Italy after footage from the Rome rally earlier this month provoked widespread condemnation. A video, widely distributed online, showed groups of men standing in rows and performing the fascist salute.
“What happened is unacceptable,” Elly Schlein of Italy’s center-left Democratic party said on social media of the January 7 commemoration in the capital. “Neo-fascist groups must be disbanded, as the constitution spells out.”
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