By Angelo Amante
ROME (Reuters) -Italy protested to Hungary on Tuesday over the treatment of an Italian woman who appeared in a Budapest court chained and shackled to face charges of taking part in an anti-fascist assault on far-right militants.
Images of Ilaria Salis, 39, being led into court on Monday with her feet and hands bound and a chain round her waist, made headlines in Italy, prompting the opposition to urge Rome’s right-wing government to do more to help her.
The case is politically difficult for Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, as she and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini have close ties with nationalist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Meloni, who is due to meet Orban at an EU summit on Thursday, raised the issue with him in a phone call, “in full respect for the independence and autonomy of the Hungarian judiciary”, her office said.
Earlier, the Hungarian charge d’affaires was summoned to the foreign ministry in Rome, while Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told parliament that Salis had faced “degrading and humiliating” treatment.
He urged respect for her rights in line with European standards and “our judicial civilisation”.
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.
Tajani told lawmakers Italy was seeking access to evidence including videos and hopes for a fair and speedy trial, adding that the Italian ambassador in Budapest had met Hungary’s justice minister.
Earlier, Tajani said on RAI public radio that Italy would seek to have Salis, who has been detained for almost a year, moved to house arrest as a first step.
Hungary’s prison service dismissed as “lies” what it called “media allegations” that Salis’ rights had been violated during detention, and said jails in the country had adequate hygiene and food standards.
Salis’ father told Italian media that she had been mistreated, for example being denied a change of clothes, toilet paper, soap and sanitary pads for at least a week after her arrest.
An online petition calling for Salis’ repatriation had collected almost 94,000 signatories by Tuesday evening.
“Giorgia Meloni, we’re not interested that Orban is a dear friend,” former prime minister Giuseppe Conte wrote on X.
“Friends and political allies come after Italians, their rights and their dignity. It’s time to put an end to this disgrace, now,” added Conte, who leads the opposition Five Star Movement.
(Additional reporting by Alvise Armellini in Rome and Boldizsar Gyori in BudapestEditing by Alison Williams, Andrew Cawthorne and Gareth Jones)
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