Mussolini's Grandson Petitions Italian Officials to Exhume Fascist Leader's Body

A grandson of Italian wartime dictator Benito Mussolini has requested that the Fascist leader's body be exhumed to establish the details surrounding why he was killed, a lawyer said Monday.

Guido Mussolini, the son of the dictator's son Vittorio, wants to shed light on the circumstances that led to his grandfather's death, said Mussolini's lawyer, Luciano Randazzo.

"We have filed a request aimed at ascertaining the cause for the death of Benito Mussolini," he said. "We have asked that the body be exhumed, but what we would find after 60 years remains to be seen."

The request was filed to prosecutors in northern Italy late August. It likely would take months before they decide on whether or not to grant the exhumation, Randazzo said.

Mussolini and his mistress, Claretta Petacci, were shot by partisans on April 28, 1945, as they were trying to flee Italy. Their bodies were hanged for display the next day in Milan.

However, the details of the dictator's demise are often a matter of debate in Italy. According to an account by Urbano Lazzaro, the resistance fighter credited with arresting Mussolini, the dictator was killed by mistake during an escape attempt.

An autopsy performed immediately after Mussolini's death ascertained he was killed by gunfire, the lawyer said. But it did not establish the caliber of the weapon that killed him, he said.

"Various reconstructions are contradicting, and there is no official act from Italian prosecutors stating how exactly he was killed," Randazzo said.

Guido Mussolini ran for a seat in the Senate in the mid-1990s with a far-right movement, but lost. He also tried unsuccessfully to become Rome mayor in 2001, running with another tiny extreme-right party.

Guido's cousin, Alessandra Mussolini, said she was opposed to an exhumation, according to the ANSA news agency.

"He has been tormented enough," she was quoted as saying. "Let's leave him in peace."