Activists protest at fascist commemorative event in Hungary
People gather to raise awareness of the case of the Italian antifascist activist Ilaria Salis detained in Hungary, in Milan, Italy, February 10, 2024 | AP

Anti-fascist activists gathered in Hungary’s capital on the weekend to oppose an annual far-right commemoration amid diplomatic tensions between Budapest and Rome over the detention of an Italian citizen in a Hungarian jail.

Hundreds marched through central Budapest alongside a heavy police presence, calling for “freedom for every anti-fascist.”

The activists sought to prevent the far right from observing its so-called day of honor, an annual event marking a failed attempt by Nazi and allied Hungarian soldiers to break out of Budapest during the Red Army’s siege of the city in 1945.

Italian anti-fascist Ilaria Salis is being held in a Hungarian jail for alleged involvement in assaults on participants last year.

Images of her chained and shackled at a Budapest court hearing sparked official protests by the Italian government.

Prosecutors are seeking an 11-year sentence for Salis and Hungarian ministers have denied that she is being held in inappropriate conditions.

At Saturday’s march, Luca Kruczynski said he had travelled from Berlin with friends “to protest against the neo-fascist groups that are having their events here now every year.”

He voiced fears that Salis’s prosecution would be a “political trial.”

Activists also gathered in Milan on Saturday to call attention to  Salis’s case.

The Italian government has called on Hungary to observe European and international law, which calls for prisoners’ dignity to be respected, “including the way in which defendants are transferred to court and the guarantees of a fair trial.”

Last week, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni spoke to her Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban about Salis’s detention.

The case is embarrassing for her far-right government, which has been on friendly terms with the similarly xenophobic Orban.

Italy’s foreign and justice ministers have refused a request to secure pre-trial detention at home in Italy or in the Italian embassy in Budapest for Salis, citing the sovereignty of Hungary’s court system.

Italian opposition leader Elly Schlein has noted that the Meloni government had intervened on behalf of Salis only after seeing “the chains and shackles.”

“It is difficult not to think that Meloni is embarrassed” in front of her European ally, said Schlein, who heads the Democratic Party.

Far-right Hungarian president Katalin Novak, a key Orban ally, resigned on Saturday amid a public outcry over her granting of a pardon to a man convicted as an accomplice in a child sexual abuse case.

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Roger McKenzie
Roger McKenzie

Roger McKenzie is the International Editor of Morning Star, Britain’s daily socialist newspaper. He is the author of the book "African Uhuru: The Fight for African Freedom in the Rise of the Global South" published by Manifesto Press.