Italy far-right ruling party shrugs off youth wing’s Fascist salutes

Italy far-right ruling party shrugs off youth wing’s Fascist salutes

ROME (AFP): Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right party Wednesday dismissed an undercover media investigation into the Fascist leanings of its youth wing.

“The journalistic report was built on the basis of fragmented, decontextualised images, taken in a private setting,” said Luca Ciriani, minister for relations with parliament and a member of Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party.

The investigation published last week by Italian news website Fanpage included video of members in Rome of the National Youth, the junior wing of Brothers of Italy, which has post-fascist roots.

In images secretly filmed by an undercover journalist, they are seen performing Fascist salutes, chanting the Nazi “Sieg Heil” greeting and shouting “Duce” in support of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

At one meeting, a youth party leader appears to explain how the movement plans to fraudulently pocket state funds.

“The national youth movement has never been reported for attacks on left-wing collectives, nor has it ever publicly displayed banners with extremist slogans or references to Fascism and Nazism,” Ciriani told parliament.

He brushed off a question from the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) on whether the government would “intervene to prevent Fascist propaganda”, saying the footage not necessarily constitute a legal matter.

PD deputy Michela Di Biase said her party was “dramatically concerned” by the report.

“The images that we all saw are an apology for Fascism in the full sense of the term. Girls and boys who are formed in the myth of those who have stained the history of our country with blood, persecution,” she said.

Asked about the report on Monday, European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer did not mention Italy directly but condemned “Fascist symbolism”, saying “we do not believe it is appropriate, we condemn it, we think it is morally wrong”.

Although Italian law bans the apology for — or justification of — Mussolini’s Fascism, it is rarely enforced.

Meloni was a teenage activist with the youth wing of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), formed by supporters of Mussolini after World War II.

The most right-wing leader to take office since 1945, she has sought to distance herself from her party’s legacy without entirely renouncing it.