A bloodstained motor car was trundled last week into the courtyard of the tiny Court of Assizes at Chieti among the Abruzzi hills. In that car had been murdered Giacomo Matteotti, millionaire, Socialist, Deputy, a man marked by all Fascists as the foe of Benito Mussolini (TIME, June 23, 1924). From the spark of tragedy ignited by his death a powder train of suspicion flamed toward Mussolini and was barely stifled without blowing up the Fascist party. The entire Aventine Opposition walked out of the Italian Chamber of Deputies and has not returned* as a protest against both the crime itself and the ruthless methods of suppressing the scandal adopted by Fascismo. Not long ago (TIME, Oct. 19), Premier Mussolini cried: "When the slayers of Matteotti are tried, the trial will be Fascismo's greatest triumph!" The trial (TIME, March 29) ended last week with the conviction of three men for the "unintentional murder" of Matteotti. They were sentenced to pay the costs of the trial and to suffer two and a half months of imprisonment. Two of their alleged accomplices went scot free. Twenty alleged instigators of the crime, several of them high officials of the Fascist party, did not so much as appear during the proceedings, since they had been whitewashed of all guilt by the recent general amnesty. Finally the widow of Signer Matteotti refused to take any part in the trial, which her lawyers declared "judicially and morally nil."
In these circumstances, impartial commentators were happily spared the necessity of sharp criticism by the fact that the "summing up" of the defense attorneys was of such a character as to brand their clients irretrievably before the world.
Farinacci. Jurists who opined that nothing could surpass in lefthandedness the defense just quoted, blinked wide-eyed as the chief defense barrister, Deputy Farinacci, the personal friend of Mussolini and Secretary General to the Fascist party, boldly cast aside all pretense that this was a murder trial and not a mere political whitewashing. He shouted: "Why was Matteotti kidnaped? For personal reasons or for private vengeance? No. Matteotti was kidnaped because he gravely offended Italy's collective sentiment of patriotism, because he undermined our national solidarity, because he was outspoken in his praise of the enemy of the State during the War, because he insulted that which a majority of the nation venerates and respects.
"Gentlemen of the Jury, do your duty. I ask for no clemency for Dumini. I will not remind you to what martyrdom, to what vile defamation, to what wicked provocations we Fascist! were continuously subjected for months after Matteotti's disappearance. I will not remind you of the suffering of our mothers and our children when we blackshirts daily left our houses without knowing whether we would return. I .will not mention the tears of the mothers, the relatives of the martyrs to our cause, when at the moment they thought their sacrifices might have been made in vain. I ask you only to do your duty."