Left-wingers from Italy and Germany are on trial in Budapest for allegedly attacking neo-Nazis. This is causing problems for the government in Rome and now also for the right-wing parties in the EU Parliament.
The Budapest antifa trial is increasingly taking on a European dimension. After Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni spoke to her counterpart Viktor Orbán on the phone last week, the country’s foreign and justice ministers issued a joint press release on Monday. The politicians had met with the father of Ilaria Salis, the accused from Italy. Previously, Hungary’s ambassador had been summoned.
The background to this is the detention conditions in the remand prison in Budapest, where the 39-year-old primary school teacher and Tobias E. from Berlin are awaiting trial before the city court following their arrest a year ago. Together with two co-defendants from Germany and Italy, they are alleged to be members of a “left-wing extremist organisation of young adults”. Salis is also accused of attacking and seriously injuring nine alleged or actual participants on the sidelines of a Nazi march on the “Day of Honour” a year ago. She faces up to eleven years in prison for this.
According to reports, Salis was not allowed to contact her family for seven months and her lawyer was barely given access to the files. Important documents were not translated into Italian and Salis had to sign papers whose content she did not understand. Her cell, which is less than three square metres in size, is infested with bedbugs and other vermin, reported a former fellow prisoner. Finally, at the start of the trial at the end of January, Salis was led into the courtroom shackled hand and foot on a chain. These images caused outrage in Italy.
Supporters of Salis are now calling for her to be able to await her trial in Budapest under house arrest instead of in prison. According to a 2009 EU framework decision on alternatives to pre-trial detention, Rome could then apply for Salis to be transferred to Italy. The Italian foreign and justice ministers are also in favour of this solution in principle. However, the politicians said on Monday that it was not up to politicians to decide whether Salis should be released from custody.
In a statement, Hungary’s judiciary described the allegations regarding the conditions of detention as lies. However, the country is repeatedly criticised for its human rights violations. According to the latest report by the EU statistics office, Hungary and Poland have the highest imprisonment rates in the EU (both 191 per 100,000 inhabitants). According to a study by the EU Parliament, Hungarian prisons are overcrowded – although conditions are even worse in Italy, Belgium, Greece and Romania.
At the request of the Italian delegation of the Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the EU Parliament in Strasbourg also dealt with the case of Ilaria Salis on Monday. Before the plenary debate, Elly Schlein, leader of the Italian centre-left party Partito Democratico (PD), took part in a flash mob of supporters of the detainee.
The debate was kicked off by the Irish EU Commissioner for Finance, Mairead McGuinness, who even threatened the government in Budapest with infringement proceedings due to the situation in the prisons. McGuinness also supported the proposal that Salis could await trial in house arrest in Italy with the help of the EU Framework Decision of 2009.
In addition to the PD, MEPs from the Greens and the liberal Renew Group, but also from the conservative EPP, criticised Hungary in the debate. A different opinion was expressed by an MEP from the far-right ID group, who accused the Commission of interfering in Hungary’s domestic politics, and an MEP from the Conservatives and Reformers (ECR), who is also far-right. He described the debate as a manoeuvre in the upcoming EU election campaign.
In fact, Ilaria Salis’ detention conditions in Hungary are having an impact on right-wing and conservative preparations for the elections in June. Meloni wants to convince Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party to join the ECR and, together with Fratelli d’Italia, the Sweden Democrats, the French Reconquête and the Spanish Vox, to oust the large, conservative EPP bloc.
Published in German in „nd“.
Image: Comitato Ilaria Salis