A self-proclaimed fascist has been banned from an Italian book fair after other writers threatened to boycott the event over his involvement.
Francesco Polacchi, the owner of the Altaforte publishing house — a company said to have close links with neo-fascist political party CasaPound and which will soon publish a book of interviews with Interior Minister and right-wing populist League leader Matteo Salvini — has been barred from the event in Turin.
On Tuesday, several authors — including historian Carlo Ginzburg, the cartoonist Zerocalcare, and art historians Salvatore Settis and Tomaso Montanari — joined the boycott because of Altaforte's planned attendance.
Holocaust survivor Halina Birenbaum said she would not attend the event if he was allowed to participate.
Polacchi was banned from participating by the event's organisers after Turin officials and the region of Piedmont requested to terminate his attendance.
The Turin chapter of the ruling anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) also called for the book fair to bar Altaforte from participating.
"The fair must be the space where we celebrate tolerance and resistance to neo-fascism and authoritarian drifts, the public moment where we can wage war with the force of words and arguments," said the M5S chapter.
Chapter member Valentina Sganga added: "But this can be done on one condition only: the exclusion of Altaforte and Polacchi.
"Any intermediate way, any compromise would mark for the fair a loss on the cultural level that we cannot accept."
Polacchi told Euronews that he would be suing the organisers for kicking his company out of the book fair and that he would be in Turin on Saturday to present the Salvini book regardless.
Asked whether he would back-up the fascist comments he made in the past, Polacchi said he could not comment because of the investigation.
"The only thing I say is that crimes of opinions are out of fashion," he added.
The book fair runs from Thursday until Monday,
Prosecutors open probe against Polacchi
On Tuesday, Turin prosecutors opened a fascism probe against Polacchi after Turin and the Piedmont regional government filed a complaint against the owner of the book publishing house, who is also the regional coordinator of the far-right group in Lombardy.
The investigation will look at several of the 33-year-old’s recent statements, such as "I am a Fascist", "antifascism is the real ill of this country", and "Mussolini is the best ever Italian statesman".
The complaint was actually filed by M5S leader Chiara Appendino who also serves the mayor of Turin. While it co-governs with the League, several M5S politicians are trying to reinforce their anti-fascist image.
The violent history of Francesco Polacchi
This is not the first time the neo-fascist has made the headlines. In 2007, he was accused of attempted murder in Porto Rotondo, Sardinia, after allegedly assaulting a group of four Sardinian boys along with a new-fascist mob. One of the victims, Stefano Moretti, was stabbed in the stomach and later identified Polacchi as his aggressor. According to the Italian newspaper La Stampa, Polacchi should have been tried in 2017, but at that point, the charges were statute-barred by limitations.
As the former leader of students block — the youth branch of CasaPound — he led the assault in 2008 on left-wing high school students that were demonstrating in Rome against Berlusconi's education reforms.
Some days later he was among the fascist mob who burst into Rai (Italian national broadcasting TV) studios after the student block picture was broadcasted live the day before.
He continued to be involved in violent incidents until 2012. During that time he moved to Milan and founded "Pivert" clothing brand, which had links to CasaPound.
In 2013 he was among the founders of "Il Primato Nazionale", Casapound's online newspaper that is also published as a monthly paper magazine.
Four years later, he was among the skinhead mob that assaulted activists from the anti-racism network "No one's illegal" (Nessuna persona è illegale) in Milan's City Hall. Polacchi could be prosecuted on May 10, while he's supposed to be at Turin's book fair.
Lastly, Polacchi founded publishing house Altaforte in the summer of 2018, which has a book interview with Salvini coming out soon.
Polacchi said he does not think that any of the violent acts he committed in the past damaged the reputation of his publishing house.
"I don't think they affect at all. This is my personal history, I don't regret anything, that is the way I am."