ROME (Reuters) – Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni defended a tough crackdown on unlicensed rave parties introduced this week by her new government and dismissed accusations it impinged on public freedoms.
Under the decree, organisers of unauthorised, mass parties face a maximum six years in jail and fines of between 1,000 to 10,000 euros ($990-$9,990) for staging such events.
Political opponents say the penalties are far too harsh, but Meloni appeared to rule out a change of heart.
“This is a regulation that I support and that I am proud of,” she said in a statement.
“It is right to prosecute those who, often arriving from all over Europe, participate in illegal raves … without respecting safety regulations and, what is more, favouring drug dealing and drug use,” she added.
Critics have also warned that the loosely worded law, the first approved by the new cabinet since it took office barely a week ago, could be used to shut down any type of public demonstration, including spontaneous student rallies.
However, Meloni said her government had no intention to limit freedom of protest. “I would like to reassure all citizens … that we will not deny anyone the right to express dissent,” she said.
The clamp down was introduced after a weekend Halloween rave in a disused warehouse close to the northern city of Modena that attracted more than 1,000 people from Italy and abroad, and brought complaints about noise and traffic problems.
The party was swiftly broken up by police using existing security laws. The same weekend, police let some 2,000 supporters of wartime dictator Benito Mussolini stage an unauthorised rally in his birthplace, Predappio.
Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi rejected any parallels between the two events. “(The Mussolini march) has been taking place for years, without any problems, under the gaze of the police,” he told Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Reporting by Crispian Balmer and Emilio Parodi Editing by Alistair Bell