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Italian Cabinet Backs Hate Law

Italy’s coalition government has approved a tough bill against racism and discrimination that, if approved by Parliament, would impose stiff penalties for skinheads and anyone else fostering racial or religious hatred.

“It is a bill, but we may transform it into a decree if Parliament takes too long or if we run up against new, serious episodes of intolerance,” Justice Minister Claudio Martelli told reporters after the bill was approved Tuesday night by the Cabinet.

Aimed against anyone who “exhorts, threatens or uses violence as a means to achieve ethnic, national, racial or religious hatred,” the bill essentially treats neo-Nazi skinheads and other extremists in the same way as the law treats terrorists or members of the Mafia.

It would impose one- to five-year prison sentences for inciting racial hatred and also permits such other punishments as internal exile and special surveillance.

The bill also allows the authorities to close down the headquarters of racist groups.