Italian Official Resigns After Video Surfaces of Apparent Fascist Salute

Italy's tourism minister faced calls for her resignation Wednesday after a video posted by an Italian newspaper apparently showed her making a fascist salute.

Michela Vittoria Brambilla, a former beauty queen and close ally of Premier Silvio Berlusconi who was made tourism minister weeks ago, said she was "astounded" at the accusations.

"I've never either done or thought of doing any gesture that is an apology of fascism, something toward which I've never showed any indulgence, let alone sympathy," Brambilla said. "And why should I have made a public display of such a despicable gesture shortly after I've been made a minister?"

The video was posted on the Web site of the left-leaning newspaper La Repubblica. It shows Brambilla attending a ceremony in honor of the Carabinieri's Paramilitary police in the northern city of Lecco earlier this month, according to La Repubblica.

The video shows the 41-year-old Brambilla listening to Italy's national anthem with her right arm folded on her heart. As the anthem ends, she extends her right arm upward in what appears to be a salute used by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and his followers.

Brambilla said she was just greeting the crowd.

Some center-left lawmakers called on Brambilla to step down, arguing that the salute amounts to apology of fascism, which in Italy is a crime.

"That stiff arm shows a dangerous and disturbing cultural and institutional drifting," said Michele Bordo of the Democratic Party, the main opposition force. "We expect Brambilla's resignation and a clear condemnation of the minister's gesture from Premier Berlusconi."

Berlusconi's center-right Freedom People's party includes a formerly neo-fascist party, which has now gone mainstream conservative.