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Turin fair kicks out neo-fascist publisher after protests

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Turin fair kicks out neo-fascist publisher after protests
Francesco Polacchi, founder of the Altaforte publishing house, who defines himself openly as a fascist, presents books to the media outside the gates of the International Book Fair in Turin, Italy May 9, 2019. REUTERS/Massimo Pinca   -   Copyright  MASSIMO PINCA(Reuters)
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By Massimo Pinca

TURIN, Italy (Reuters) – Turin’s international book fair refused on Thursday to let a publishing house run by an avowed fascist exhibit at the event following a protest by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Holocaust museum and Italian intellectuals.

Altaforte Edizioni, founded and run by far-right activist Francesco Polacchi, had been due to present its books at the prestigious event. But when the fair began, its stand had been dismantled at the request of local authorities, officials said.

Polacchi, who earlier this week said Italy’s real problem was “anti-fascism”, denounced the decision and protested outside the conference centre holding the fair in the northern city of Turin.

“Altaforte Edizioni does not bend to the logic of a single way of thinking … Books cannot and must not face censorship,” he said on Facebook.

Earlier this week, the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum, on the site of the former Nazi death camp, threatened to drop plans for a panel at the fair with Holocaust survivor and writer Halina Birenbaum if Altaforte was allowed to show.

Birenbaum thanked organisers for blocking the publisher.

“After surviving Auschwitz, this is further proof, for me, that evil will not win,” she said in a statement.

Altaforte recently published a book of interviews with far-right League leader Matteo Salvini, who serves as deputy prime minister and interior minister.

He denounced the decision to block the company.

“We are in 2019 and we are censoring books based on ideas … ideas are answered with other ideas, not censorship,” Salvini told a political rally in the city of Pesaro.

The fair’s organisers had said previously that Altaforte had the right to a stand because the group had never been convicted of crimes related to fascism.

The city of Turin, which is governed by the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, and the broader Piedmont region, run by the centre-left Democratic Party, issued statements saying they would sue Polacchi for his fascist views.

The city and region subsequently told the fair’s organisers to bar entrance to Altaforte.

“The City of Turin and the Piedmont Region formally asked the International Book Fair to cancel the contract with Altaforte,” Turin Mayor Chiara Appendino wrote on Facebook.

“The escalating tensions, the recent comments by (Altaforte’s) representatives and the doubts expressed by authors and exhibitors made this an obvious choice,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Crispian Balmer and Angelo Amante; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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