A Blast from the Past
ROBERTO FIORE finding his way in London (right). Tory Home Secretary Douglas Hurd had decided against extradition. June 1989 issue of Searchlight said the fascist fugitive had worked for MI6.
Now leading Forza Nuova, Fiore was with old friend Nick Grffin on Saturday night.
SOME 19 anti-fascist protestors were arrested at the weekend as more than a thousand opposed the British National Party's 'Red, White, and Blue' festival taking place at Codnor, in Derbyshire. Despite the huge police operation the demonstrators managed to block roads leading to the Nazi event for several hours.
But one man who managed to get to the rally was a guest speaker who first came to Britain as a fugitive from police in his own country. As Italian fascist Roberto Fiore joined the BNP's Nick Griffin on the platform to denounce the "threat to Europe from Islamic extremism", it was not just a meeting of like minds, but a reunion of old friends and business associates. If anyone was reminded of the time Fiore's own name was linked to an extremist action they probably kept their thoughts to themselves.
It was the morning of August 2, 1980, the start of Italy's Summer holidays, and Bologna Centrale railway station was packed with holiday makers. Many were in the air-conditioned main waiting room. At 10:25 a.m., a timed explosive device contained in an unattended suitcase went off in that room, destroying the building and bringing down the roof on people. It also hit the Ancona-Chiasso train waiting at the first platform. Altogether 85 people were killed and hundreds injured. .
On that summer Saturday the station was full of tourists and the city was unprepared for such a massive incident. There were not enough ambulances, so buses and taxis were used to transport the injured to hospitals.
The next day, police investigators found metal fragments and scraps of plastics near the source of the explosion. The device had contained a mixture of explosives, including T4, an explosive used by NATO forces including the Italian army. But what sort of people would plant such a bomb, knowing it would kill ordinary citizens, families going on holiday, their own countrymen? Suspicions pointed to the Armed Revolutionary Nuclei, NAR, an outfit formed by hard-line fascists from groups like Ordine Nueva (New Order), Ordine Nero (Black Order), and Avanguardia Nazionale(National Vanguard). Prime Minister Francesco Cossiga supported the theory that neo-fascists were behind the attack, "unlike leftist terrorism, which strikes at the heart of the state through its representatives, black terrorism prefers the massacre because it promotes panic and impulsive reactions."
Italy had endured a whole series of terror attacks, some initially blamed on anarchists, but most openly or covertly the work of fascists. Sometimes their targets were obviously left-wing, but often they were indiscriminate, part of a "strategy of tension" backed by powerful elements within the state and abroad, aimed at terrorising ordinary Italians into submission to a "strong-arm" regime.
Soon a number of men were being sought in connection with the Bologna bombing. Some were traced to London, where they were being looked after by British fascists. In 1981 the Italian authorities requested extradition of six of them, including Roberto Fiore, but proceedings failed. Luciano Petrone was extradited in 1983. Alessandro Alibrandi returned to Italy secretly, and was killed in a gunfight with police. Alibrandi had been a regular visitor to Lebanon, and Christian Falangist camps. Another young man who went to Lebanon was Roberto Fiore. In 1985 an Italian court found him guilty of membership of the NAR, and sentenced him in absentia to five years in prison. But Home Secretary Douglas Hurd said in May 1989 that he had decided there were no grounds for sending Fiore back to Italy. The anti-fascist magazine Searchlight said Italian judges suspected Fiore had cut a deal with MI6, who apparently valued his information and contacts. (Fascist fugitive 'worked for MI6', Searchlight Jume 1989)
Whatever the reasons, Fiore seemed safe in London. For a time he lived in a flat in Warwick Square, SW1, with a Tory minister as neighbour, and worked as a travel guide. Politically he worked with a rising star of the National Front, Nick Griffin, and set up the so-called international Third Position. This might not have amounted to much, and Griffin eventually settled for the BNP, but their friendship prospered in other ways. Fiore was able to set up a business providing employment and accomodation for young people coming to London, and Nick Griffin's father became his accountant.
After Labour was returned in 1997 there were reports that the Italian government (then Socialist) would make a fresh bid for extradition. But nothing came of this. The Charity Commissioners did look into two Catholic charities, the St.George Educational Trust(SGET) and the Trust of St Michael the Archangel (TSMA), with which Fiore was linked, along with former National Front activist Colin Todd. They were concerned about a village in Spain and about Liss House in Hampshire, used by the International Third Position.
In August 2007 Fiore became sole director of CL English Language, a college for overseas students in West London.
Meanwhile he had returned to Italy, where Berlusconi has brought the more respectable fascists into government. Fiore is free to set up his own fascist party Forza Nuova and to succeed Allessandra Mussolini in the European Parliament. He has not succeeded in keeping the seat, but nor has his party lost the link with right-wing terror. At its student rally in Rome, two years ago, Fiore was followed on the platform by Andrea Insabatto, given early release from a sentence for throwing a bomb into the offices of the left-wing paper Il Manifesto.
Nick Griffin's post-election outbursts about sinking immigrant ships and using "chemotherapy" against Islam suggest it must have been a jolly reunion for him and Fiore. Having led his own supporters bearing iron bars and sticks on the march to open new headquarters in Bergamo, the Italian may have been dissappointed the BNP could not put on more force to start its rally. But the emergence of the so-called English Defence League hoologans has an echo of Forza Nuova's "sentries for the people".