ROME – An Italian judge has ordered police to seize the headquarters of a far-right group in central Rome, authorities said on Thursday, in a move hailed as a victory by the city's mayor Virgina Raggi from the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement.
Successive administrations have tried for years to evacuate the building occupied by CasaPound, a group that espouses a neo-fascist ideology and that has gained increasing visibility across Italy during the economic downturn of recent years.
The order to seize the building, issued on the 76th anniversary of Rome's liberation from Nazi occupation by U.S. troops in World War II, has not yet been carried out, but Raggi said it represented a symbolic victory.
"Today we celebrate the 76th anniversary of the liberation of Rome from Nazi-fascist occupation," she wrote on Facebook, thanking magistrates for issuing the order.
The seizure order is based on an investigation into the rightist group on charges of illegal occupation of property, the police said in a statement.
A spokesman from CasaPound was not immediately available for comment.
CasaPound, which takes its name from Ezra Pound, the modernist American poet who supported Italy's wartime fascist leader Benito Mussolini, campaigns against migrants and what it sees as promoters of globalization.
The movement was originally both anti-American and anti-Zionist, and started to cooperate with the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah in 2015.
It also looks to build support in poor neighborhoods through food distribution and other forms of assistance.
More than a dozen families live in the six-floor block, which has been occupied by far-right activists since 2003 and whose inside walls are bedecked with anti-capitalist posters and the flag of Mussolini's National Fascist Party.
A police statement said procedures for implementing the order were "ongoing" and it was not immediately clear when the group members would effectively be forced to leave.
Raggi's 2016 victory was seen as a breakthrough for the 5-Star party, however her rule has been dogged by myriad problems, including with transport and garbage collection, and she has not said if she will seek reelection in 2021.
In January of 2013, about 10 members of the organization, all between the ages of 21 and 33, were arrested in Naples, Salerno and Latina, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.
According to the Italian media, surveillance tapes of meetings captured “anti-semitic phrases and speeches full of racist hatred.” One recording caught a speaker proposing “to beat and rape a student whose only ‘guilt’ is to be Jewish,” stated the news site leggo.it.
"They were systematically indoctrinating young militants to hate foreigners and Jews at meetings in which, among other things, they discussed Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf," the site quoted Naples assistant prosecutor Rosario Cantelmo as saying.
The extremists were charged with crimes including possession of illegal arms and explosives, subversive association, taking part in political street brawls in Naples in 2011 and violent attacks on left-wing activists using knives and firebombs.