Their crimes included grievous bodily harm, for which some of the accused were jailed for eight to ten years (Fabrizio Ferrari, Andrea Attilia, Alessandro Petrella, and Roberto Sabuzi), assaults, stealing and destruction of property. The racist motivation for some of their actions was proven in a number of incidents for which they and others were judged responsible. Much of the evidence obtained by the Carabinieri and DIGOS, the anti-terrorist police, was obtained from raids on the homes of the suspects and telephone intercepts.
Investigations began following an assault on spectators at an anti-racist open-air concert in Rome given by the ska-punk band Banda Bassotti, known for songs focusing on anti-fascism. As reported in Searchlight at the time (August 2007), about 50 nazis wearing crash helmets, with their faces masked and shouting fascist slogans, entered Villa Ada Park as the concert ended soon after midnight, armed with iron bars and knives. Three people were severely wounded and taken to hospital.
The well organised nature of the raid, with attackers hiding in wait in the darkness ready to corner defenceless spectators against an iron net, convinced the police that they were dealing with an organised gang that would probably strike again. It was not long before other incidents occurred, including an attempted arson attack against a gypsy camp at Gioia Tauro, southern Italy, the destruction of cars outside a stadium as revenge for the accidental killing by a policeman of a football fan, an assault against a police station that brought havoc to an entire district of the capital and a particularly vicious attack on four Romanian immigrants.
The police tracked down some of the suspects and began to listen to telephone conversations, which hinted at plans to attack politicians. “With simple actions like at Gioia Tauro”, one of those subsequently arrested was heard saying, “no one will take any notice of us, two lines in a newspaper two weeks later and that’s it. We have to do something serious. Something perfect, at least once in a lifetime, something to make them [MPs] think that we are capable of waiting for them outside Parliament and hunt me [sic] down.”
The judge cited evidence obtained from intercepts that members of FN were delegating tasks to elements in the gang. Before a torch-lit demonstration in Rome against immigration, for which no police permission had been obtained, Daniele Pinti, the coordinator of a local FN branch, was heard saying to Francesco Ceci, a gang member, “I ask you to pay attention, we need steady nerves today because there are women and children [present], then those who will survive will see the results”.
Interviewed before the verdict, Roberto Fiore, leader of FN, dismissed the judge as biased and denied that any members of his organisation had been involved in any violence. “I know some of those who have been arrested and have been released, they are good boys,” he declared.
Away from his army of “good boys”, who have been photographed wearing crash helmets and holding wooden sticks, Fiore is cultivating his international contacts and may even be acting as ambassador-at-large for his longstanding friend and political pupil Nick Griffin, the BNP leader. Russia has become one of his favourite destinations. After the copious praise he heaped last year on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, probably without much of a response, his new chum in the steppes is Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and deputy speaker of the Duma, the Russian Parliament.
Fiore has visited Zhirinovsky twice in the past few months. On 13 December he was seen flanking Zhirinovky on the platform at celebrations of the LDP’s 20th anniversary in Moscow and gave a speech in front of 2,000 delegates and foreign guests. Fiore described the meeting with the LDP leader as “a strategic embrace between Russia and Europe in defence of liberty”.
For his part Zhirinovsky said that with Fiore he is working towards the creation of “a new European force stretching from Portugal to the Urals”. Both promised that we shall soon hear of “initiatives which will demonstrate the developments of this important political relationship”.
A small detour embracing the UK might be on the cards.