Italian far-right leader bound and beaten by anti-fascist activists

National head of anti-immigration group accuses attackers of 'hate campaign'

Thursday 22 February 2018 17:04
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Members of the far-right Italian movement 'Forza Nuova' demonstre in Bologna, Italy, 16 February
Members of the far-right Italian movement 'Forza Nuova' demonstre in Bologna, Italy, 16 February

A far-right leader was bound and beaten by left-wing extremists in Italy.

Massimo Ursino, a prominent member of the anti-immigration Forza Nuova group, was attacked in Palermo and required hospital treatment.

His balaclava-clad assailants bound his hands and feet with parcel tape, The Local reported, and the beating left him with head and facial injuries.

They pounced as Mr Ursino left a supermarket in central Palermo, in Sicily.

An anonymous claim of responsibility said the attack was "a demonstration of the fact that in Palermo there are people who have no fear of fighting fascism".

On its Facebook page Forza Nuova said it was "attempted murder". The group's national head, Roberto Fiore, accused the attackers of a "hate campaign". Mr Fiore is due to speak in Palermo at the weekend.

The assault on Tuesday night came in the run-up to Italy's general election in March.

A number acts of vandalism, intimidation and violence have taken place during the tense campaign, including a bullet placed in mail destined for a candidate for Parliament, and the knifing of two people affixing campaign posters.

Interior Minister Marco Minniti warned on Wednesday that Italian organised crime syndicates could try to influence the results of the 4 March vote which will help determine Italy's next government.

"The risk, is, unfortunately, concrete, that the Mafia can condition the free vote in our country", Mr Minniti said at a presentation of Parliament's annual report on organised crime. "We understand that's a threat to the most important thing in democracy."

Authorities have long contended that crime bosses promise candidates votes from Italians loyal to their clan in exchange for public works contracts being awarded to their associates.

Nasty and sometimes violent incidents have been reported nearly daily in the run-up to the vote.

Early on Wednesday, residents in a Rome neighbourhood discovered two swastikas and "death to cops" scrawled in black paint on a monument honouring five police bodyguards who were slain on that block by Red Brigades terrorists during the March 1978 abduction of former Premier Aldo Moro. Mr Moro was later slain by his captors.

Residents covered the graffiti with bed sheets until it could be erased. The memorial's plaque had been temporarily removed for cleaning ahead of the 40th anniversary of the policemen's killing.

In southern Calabria, a post office found a bullet wrapped in a facsimile of a ballot in an envelope addressed to a candidate of the populist 5-Star Movement for Parliament's lower Chamber of Deputies.

The movement said the candidate, Giuseppe d'Ippolito, was assigned protection for his home and law office in the town of Lamezia Terme, whose city council was recently ordered disbanded by Italy's government due to suspected infiltration by the 'ndrangheta crime syndicate.

On Tuesday, two men suffered knife wounds while affixing posters for a far-left party in central Italy.

In Tuscany, the mayor of the town of Castelfiorentino said a swastika was scrawled on a monument honouring a young man hanged by Italy's Nazi occupiers in 1945. Mayor Alessio Falorni said there was an attempt in Italy to "bring back to life dead ideologies, but in an insidious way, without citing them directly and by exploiting people's anger".

Violence also erupted earlier in the campaign in central Italy when an Italian gunman wounded six Africans in a drive-by shooting. He said he was avenging the murder of an 18-year-old Italian woman allegedly killed by Nigerian migrants.

Anti-migrant rhetoric has coursed through much of the campaign, including from leaders of the Northern League, a party allied with former Premier Silvio Berlusconi in a campaign coalition.

Additional reporting by AP

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