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Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Reading the Walls of San Lorenzo: The Story of Ilaria


This wall of signs and posters is at the entrance to the tunnel under railroad tracks that lead to Stazione Termini, not far away. On the other side of the tunnel is the beginning of via Tiburtina and the leftist community of San Lorenzo. The Palestinian flag is prominently featured, and Romans will recognize the Rai poster of their Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, astride an arm in full Fascist salute. But who is Ilaria? And why does Ilaria need to be "free" (libera)?

Ilaria is Ilaria Salis, a 39-year-old Italian woman activist, arrested in Budapest, Hungary in February, 2023 for having attacked some militants of Hungary's extreme right who were participating in a demonstration. What actually happened is unclear, but Rome's daily newspaper Il Messaggero reports that those presumably attacked never filed charges and were judged to have been recovered from their injuries within 5 to 8 days.

The legal process against Salis was initiated in January, 2024. She appeared in court in handcuffs and ankle chains, setting off international concerns about the way she was being treated. At the time, right-wing Meloni intervened with her even more right-wing Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orbán, as did other Italian officials. (Given Meloni's reputation as the "Orbán whisperer," it's surprising to us she wasn't more successful in freeing the leftist politico.) 

But Salis's request to be allowed to leave jail for house arrest was rejected--for the third time. In May, 2024, her request was approved, and she now resides in Budapest in the apartment of someone she doesn't know who volunteered to host her. Although her Italian and Hungarian attorneys hope for her release in the near future, she risks a sentence of up to 24 years, and her time in domicile counts for only 1/5 of the same time in prison.

Under house arrest, Salis will be able to communicate quite freely with contacts in Italy and will be able to participate in an electoral campaign, an important consideration because she is a candidate for the European parliament, as a member of the Avs party, a federation of the Italian left and Green Europe. If she is elected--voting is next weekend, June 8 and 9--it appears she would be granted immunity from prosecution and presumably be released.  Postscript: Ilaria Salis was elected to the European parliament. Her release is anticipated, though it is not guaranteed. 


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