Italy’s Meloni urges swift trial for Italian activist held in Hungary

Brussels: The Italian anti-fascist activist held in Hungary for assaulting far-right militants should be granted a quick trial, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said this week, wading into a controversy that is souring relations between Rome and Budapest.

Images of Ilaria Salis, 39, being led into court on Monday with her feet and hands bound and a chain round her waist drew outrage in Italy, prompting media and opposition calls for Rome’s right-wing government to do more to help her.

The case is politically sensitive due to the long-standing ties between Meloni and her Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban, who met in Brussels as part of a summit of European Union leaders.

“What I talked about with the Hungarian prime minister is ensuring that our compatriots are treated with dignity, respect, and (given) a fair trial, and I would also say a speedy one,” Meloni told reporters.

“I hope more can be done on this,” she said.

Salis, an elementary school teacher from near Milan, is accused of taking part in a serious assault on two far-right militants by a group of anti-fascist activists in Budapest last February. She pleaded not guilty on Monday.

Prosecutors are seeking an 11-year sentence for Salis, who is next due in court on May 24.

Meloni told reporters she hoped Salis could prove her innocence, and said that while in Italy prisoners are never put in chains and shackles, this was normal in Hungary.

“This is how it works in many sovereign states, even in the West,” she said.