‘Mussolini’ fracas: Brussels court gives MP’s brother conditional discharge

A Court of Appeal in Brussels gives three-year conditional discharge to Maltese civil servant at the European Union, but acquits him of incitement to hate towards people of Jewish faith

Stefan Grech: sentence confirmed on appeal
Stefan Grech: sentence confirmed on appeal

A Court of Appeal in Brussels has upheld a three-year suspended sentence for a Maltese civil servant at the European Union, over a racially-motivated assault on a civil servant of the EU.

Stefan Grech, 51, had his probationary sentence confirmed by an appeals court but reduced to a conditional discharge for three years, subject to good conduct and without other conditions.

The appeal however acquitted Grech of the charges concerning “incitement to hate or violence towards people of Jewish faith”.

Grech was asked to pay legal and court expenses, and nominal fees for damages to his victim.

Originally, Grech was sentenced in 2018 and ordered to submit himself to therapy for his alcohol habit, and carry out an unspecified number of hours of community work with a race-related organisation.

Grech, brother of Nationalist MP Claudio Grech, was formally charged, and found guilty of, incitement to hate or violence towards people of Jewish faith, violation of anti-racism laws, and assault aggravated by racial hatred.

The incident took place in 2015, when Grech was involved in a drunken altercation with a restaurant patron and her friend. Grech was having drinks with friends at the L’Italiano café, when he reportedly started a rant lauding the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, to which a 50-year-old Italian woman, also a head of unit at the European Commission, objected to.

According to the claims of the woman and her friend, who were the only witnesses brought by the injured party in the case, Grech attacked the woman when she confronted him over his rant. In her police complaint, the woman said Grech started to attack her when she told him, ‘I could be Jewish’… “That’s when all of a sudden the man took the sign in his hand and hit me in the face near my left ear. He then tried to take my neck in hands to strangle me.”

The woman claimed Grech told her: “You should have all been killed”. After filing her police complaint, the woman was taken to hospital where she was treated for concussion.

Grech had admitted drinking considerably by the time of the incident and that his banter was misinterpreted in a moment of high jinks gone wrong. Another witness, Fabrio Fracasso, told the police that Grech was very drunk.

“Among our Italian friends were a communist and also a fascist, who showed off his tattoo of Mussolini and then went outside to his car to bring back a mock licence-plate that read ‘Mussolini’ – so I started waving it around in the face of the communist, taunting him about it by singing a fascist song. It was simply banter, nothing serious,” Grech told the court.