Italy suspends army general over book disparaging minorities, lawyer says

By Thomson Reuters Feb 28, 2024 | 5:15 AM

ROME (Reuters) – An Italian army general reprimanded by the defence minister for publishing a book disparaging LGBT people, migrants, minorities and feminists has been suspended from duty for 11 months, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

The opinions expressed in Roberto Vannacci’s self-published book, “The World Upside Down” made headlines in the national press last year, winning applause from right-wing readers and sparking outrage among left-wing opposition parties.

Defence Minister Guido Crosetto said in August the ministry would take disciplinary action, explaining that the book discredited the army, defence ministry and constitution.

In a statement disclosing Vannacci’s suspension, his lawyer Giorgio Carta said the ministry alleged the book harmed the principle of army neutrality and the prestige of the military administration, and could cause possible imitation within the military structure.

The lawyer said he would appeal against the suspension to an administrative court on the grounds it was against the right to freedom of expression guaranteed to all Italian citizens.

The book says homosexual men are not normal and claims there is an “international gay lobby” trying to brainwash the world. It also appears to question whether Black people can be Italian, referring to Paola Egonu, an Italian volleyball international born in Italy to Nigerian parents.

The book, which Vannacci said has sold over 200,000 copies, made him popular among Italian right-wingers, prompting him to write his autobiography which will be published next month.

Matteo Salvini, leader of the co-ruling League party who is looking to revive his fortunes in European Parliament elections set for June, said last month he might ask Vannacci to contest the vote as a League candidate.

“We are in a ridiculous state of affairs, how scary is the General?,” Salvini wrote on social media X after learning of Vannacci’s suspension.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante, Editing by William Maclean)