Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi (73) was yesterday attacked at a political meeting in Milan by a man who, according to eyewitnesses, hit the Italian premier in the face with a small statuette.
Berlusconi awoke this morning in hospital, after reportedly suffering a fractured tooth and a broken nose.
The suspect was immediately arrested and has already been named as Massimo Tartaglia, 42.
The Berlusconi camp were fast to ensure that reports of the incident highlighted Tartaglia’s “history of mental illness” which was included in the AFP news release – issued within minutes of the incident occurring in Milan’s central square yesterday afternoon.
The local police confirmed that the man responsible had no criminal record but had suffered psychological problems in the past.
A member of Berlusconi’s party interviewed for television told how “[the attack was] the act of a psychologically unstable person”.
Reports over the incident itself also differ dramatically: some claim the attack was a punch, others that Berlusconi was struck with a small statue and further reports suggest the statue was thrown.
Several commentators have expressed surprise at the speed with which the mental history of the alleged attacker made their way into news releases and, consequently, the mainstream media. Questions have also been raised over the fact the attacker has been publicly named before any charges have been brought or any court appearance has been made, or even found to be required.
Berlusconi is said to be recovering in hospital in Milan.