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Italian activist Ilaria Salis released after 15 months in prison following MEP election win

Demonstrators hold up a banner at left with writing reading in Italian "Lets free Ilaria Salis", in front of the Pantheon monument, in Rome, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024.
Demonstrators hold up a banner at left with writing reading in Italian "Lets free Ilaria Salis", in front of the Pantheon monument, in Rome, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. Copyright / Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse
Copyright / Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse
By euronews
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The European Parliament members enjoy substantial legal immunity from prosecution, even if the allegations pertain to crimes committed prior to their election.

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Italian anti-fascist activist Ilaria Salis was released from house arrest in Budapest on Friday after being elected as a Member of the European Parliament for the Green-Left Alliance (AVS).

According to her lawyer, police removed Salis's electronic bracelet in Budapest, the Hungarian capital and her father is expected to take her back to Italy later today.

She was charged in Hungary with attempted murder after being part of a group of anti-fascists accused of assaulting individuals they believed were linked to the far-right Day of Honour last year.

The event, held annually on February 11, sees far-right activists mark the failed attempt by Nazi and allied Hungarian soldiers to break out of Budapest during the Red Army’s siege in 1945.

The alleged victims of the attack reportedly didn’t complain to police.

Protesters clash with riot police during the 'free Hungary, free Palestine' demonstration in support of Italian activist Ilaria Salis near the Hungarian Embassy in Rome, Italy
Protesters clash with riot police during the 'free Hungary, free Palestine' demonstration in support of Italian activist Ilaria Salis near the Hungarian Embassy in Rome, ItalyAndreea Alexandru/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

The 39-year-old had been to court on several occasions on a chain with her hands and ankles cuffed, sparking shock and protests in Italy, although Budapest said it was standard procedure for its prisoners.

Following public outcry, Rome summoned the Hungarian ambassador and eventually secured her transfer to house arrest in May.

Her father Roberta Salis expressed joy after she won the MEP seat in the just concluded EU elections. “We are very happy about the election,” he told Euronews.

Before the elections, Salis' father repeatedly voiced concerns, saying that Salis faced up to 24 years in jail on charges of attempted murder.

The Hungarian prosecutor had asked for a prison term of 11 years.

Politically sensitive issue sparked public outcry in Italy

The politically sensitive issue touched on the long-standing relationship between Italy's right-wing Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orbán.

The Hungarian government repeatedly defended its treatment of the Italian activist being held in jail, after her images chained and shackled also sparked official protests by the Italian government.

The case had been a delicate one for the far-right government of Giorgia Meloni, who has forged friendly ties with Orbán.

Italian politicians Angelo Bonelli and Nicola Fratoianni – who decided to put forward Salis as a candidate on the lists of the Greens and Left Alliance for the EU election - said they were “happy and even more convinced of our choice.”

“Now, after this first victory, so important for her and all of us, we want to bring her back to Italy and then to Brussels as a MEP,” they said.

Members of the European Union parliament enjoy substantial legal immunity from prosecution, even if the allegations pertain to crimes committed prior to their election.

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