Videos posted on the Internet sought to stir doubts over a December 13 attack on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi by hinting it was staged to create sympathy for the embattled Italian leader.
A video sequence posted on YouTube shows television footage in which Berlusconi immediately covers the lower part of his face with a black plastic bag after the attack and keeps it there while being bundled into a car with no blood visible.
The YouTube video, which has had more than 200,000 views, is titled “The Attack on Berlusconi Is a Set-Up.”
Several other similar videos have appeared on the site, including one that has had some 60,000 views.
A man who police said had a long history of psychiatric troubles was arrested after the attack, which left the 73-year-old Berlusconi with a broken nose, two broken teeth and other facial injuries.
The first video questions why the prime minister emerged from the car a few minutes after the attack, showing his bloody face to the cameras, including a deep wound below his left eye which did not appear in the first images.
No blood appears on the prime minister’s clothes, it notes.
“A manipulation is under way on a world scale, whose aim in the short and long term is to take control of the Internet,” the author concludes.
The government announced two days after the attack that it planned to close down pages on the Internet social networking site Facebook posted by groups who lionised the assailant.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle dismissed the suggestions.
Giuseppe Fioroni, the opposition Democratic Party’s shadow welfare minister and a trained doctor, urged a stop to the “foolishness.”
If the object — a miniature of Milan’s cathedral — had struck the prime minister in the temple it could have killed him, Fioroni said.
Berlusconi, who has been dogged by scandal this year, saw a three-point increase in public trust to 48 percent after the attack, according to a poll published by the left-leaning daily La Repubblica.
Public trust in Berlusconi has been in decline for the past seven months and his popularity rating reached 45 percent in October and November — the lowest it had been since he won elections in April 2008.
He received a wave of sympathy from foreign leaders, many of whom telephoned him to wish him a speedy recovery.