The deputy leader of the British National Party has spoken at an international fascist rally alongside a man convicted of a terrorism offence and a convicted Holocaust denier.
Simon Darby claims he addressed a 400-strong audience in Milan today (5 April). Representatives of extreme-right parties in Germany, France, Romania, Hungary and Cyprus were expected to take part in the meeting.
Darby, who flew out to Italy this morning, heads the BNP's European election candidates' list for the West Midlands, a region in which the party could win a seat. He has a "Mr Clean" reputation in a party in which many leading activists have criminal convictions, a nazi past or both.
The rally was titled: "Our Europe; Peoples and Traditions Against Banks and Big Powers", a change from the original, "Our Europe; Peoples and Traditions Against Banks and Usury". The term "usury" is traditionally used by Nazis against Jews and it may have been altered to avoid accusations of antisemitism.
Speakers enter the hotel greeted by fascist salutes
It had been booked at a major conference centre in Milan, but widespread protests from MEPs and Italian partisan veterans, as well as a 20,000-strong petition forced its move to a private hotel.
The meeting was organised by Forza Nuova, whose leader Roberto Fiore, was convicted in Italy in 1985 for "subversive association" for his involvement in the Armed Revolutionary Nuclei. Two members of that organisation were convicted for the Bologna railway station bombing in August 1980 which killed 85 people, including two British tourists, Catherine Mitchell and John Kolpinski, and left over 200 wounded. It was the biggest postwar terrorist attack in Europe.
Fiore became an MEP after Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of the Italian fascist dictator, resigned her seat to take up a post in the Italian government. He has been a friend, financial supporter and political mentor to BNP leader Nick Griffin since 1980, when Fiore arrived in Britain on the run from justice in Italy.
Fiore helped Griffin run the National Front "political soldiers", described at the time as a "proto-terrorist organisation". When the political soldiers collapsed, they went on to found a new fascist group, the International Third Position.
Alongside his political activities Fiore amassed a huge fortune through business interests in London and later around the world. They included operating as a slum landlord and exploiting people brought in from eastern Europe, Italy and Spain, whom he passed on to gang masters to work on the land and in food processing plants.
Simon Darby (right) with Bruno Gollnisch MEP (left) and Roberto Fiore MEP (second from left)
Fiore was also one of the founders of the extremely violent Hammerskins skinhead movement, part of the nazi music and football hooligan gangs responsible for violence on the terraces. They have strong links with one of the most vicious fascist football hooligan gangs in Europe, the Roma Ultras, who recently attacked English football fans, stabbing one. Their most infamous episode was when they unfurled a banner down one side of their home stadium with the words "Jews to Auschwitz".
Hammerskins members recently marched through Bergamo in northern Italy armed with sticks and metal bars and with helmets on their heads. At their head were Fiore and Father Giulio Tam, a priest revered by Spanish falangistas and Italian fascists, who blessed the FN's new headquarters in the town. Father Tam was in the audience at the Milan rally.
Father Giulio Tam raises his hand in support of fascism
Fiore is closely associated with the Catholic Society of St Pius X, in which Bishop Richard Williamson was a leading light. In January 2009 in a television interview Bishop Williamson denied the existence of the Nazi gas chambers, a statement that caused a scandal when the Pope lifted his longstanding excommunication a week later.
Also in prime position on the platform with Darby was Bruno Gollnisch. An MEP for the French National Front, Gollnisch was given a three-month suspended prison sentence in January 2007 for denying the Holocaust. He was also fined €5,000.
The court, in Lyon, found he had "disputed a crime against humanity" in remarks he made during a news conference in the city in October 2004. Gollnisch, who was chair of the Identity Tradition and Sovereignty far-right official group in the European Parliament, had questioned the number of Jews who died in the Holocaust and said the "existence of the gas chambers is for historians to discuss".
In April last year, just three days before polling day in the London Assembly election, in which the BNP won one seat, Griffin brought Gollnisch and other European extremists to a private meeting in a South Kensington hotel.
The meeting took place at a time when Griffin, a long-time Jew-hater who has a conviction for race hate, had approached the Jewish community in a bid to form a united front against Muslims, an invitation that the Jewish community firmly rejected.
Despite the BNP's anti-EU stance, Griffin is keen to build links with European far-right parties, hoping that if he is elected as an MEP, he will be able to join a far-right bloc. If enough far-right MEPs can put aside their nationalist rivalries and form an official group in the European Parliament, they will benefit from a further €1 million a year on top of their salaries and staffing and expenses allowances. They would also be entitled to committee positions and enhanced speaking rights.
In October Griffin addressed an open-air rally of the Hungarian hardline fascist Jobbik party and its private army heavy mob, the Hungarian Guard, in Budapest. Griffin has been flirting with the Hungarian fascists since May when he met the Jobbik representatives Bela Kovacs and Zoltan Fuzessy in London.
Jobbik, also known as the Movement for a Better Hungary, is strongly anti-Jewish. Although the BNP has courted the Jewish community and denies it is antisemitic, Darby said recently on a radio broadcast that BNP MEPs would welcome cooperation with Jobbik.
A few days after his return from Hungary Griffin was cementing his relationship with the tiny anti-immigration, anti-Muslim and anti-Romani Czech National Party (NS) by addressing its rally to celebrate Czech independence. Griffin's trip, accompanied by several BNP activists, followed the visit by the NS leader, Petra Edelmannová, to the BNP's Red White and Blue festival last August.
That Darby has now joined Griffin in linking up with these far-right extremists in Europe shows that the BNP is still an out-and-out fascist and antisemitic party, despite the fine words and smart suits of its leaders.