Silvio Berlusconi, who is recovering in hospital after being attacked on Sunday, has thanked his supporters and wellwishers, saying that “love would always conquer hate”. The Italian prime minister was commenting for the first time since the attack, in a message published on his party’s website.
The government has claimed that the assault was pre-meditated and that the attacker had been developing a grudge amid an increasingly hostile climate towards the PM.
Roberto Maroni, Italian Interior Minister said:
“The task of the security forces in such a situation is particularly delicate and complex. But the tone and political discourse that we’ve seen recently, especially the intense campaign against the prime minister, which in many cases has passed the legitimate limit in democratic conflicts, has ended up causing a dangerous spiral.”
The minister said Berlusconi’s aggressor had been in the square for several hours preparing for the attack and was equipped with pepper spray and a resin crucifix. Massimo Tartaglia, who reportedly has a history of mental illness, has been charged with carrying it out.
The government is considering taking action against social networking websites where pages praising the attacker have been joined by thousands of people.
In the square around Milan cathedral souvenir stall holders have been reporting a brisk trade. Berlusconi was struck by a model of the cathedral after addressing a rally.
Stall-owner Mario Lantuzzi said:
“Sales have definitely gone up, people are asking about which model was used. They keep picking it up to see how heavy it is. It’s definitely one of the most popular Christmas gifts.”
While the attack has been widely condemned, politicians on left and right have accused each other of creating an atmosphere of hate that made it possible.