Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi today faces a testing vote in the Senate on keeping troops in Afghanistan. It was this issue that led to him briefly standing down in February, after a revolt by leftist allies. He is expected to win but the debate will highlight his reliance on unelected lifetime senators.
The government’s role in the release of journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo, who had been kidnapped in Afghanistan, could cost him support among the opposition. They have criticised the handing over of five Taliban prisoners to secure the reporter’s release.
Despite the deal the affair is still not completely resolved. A protest in Rome was intended to highlight concern over the fate of Mastrogiacomo’s interpreter. He was supposed to have been released with Mastrogiacomo but remains unaccounted for.
Journalist Giuliana Sgrena, herself a former hostage in Iraq, urged the Italian government to act: “We can’t make a difference between Italian and Afghan citizens,” she said.
Critics of the hostage swap say it sets a dangerous precedent and puts other journalists in war zones at risk.