Italy's premier Giuseppe Conte on Wednesday called out rightwingers who have made accusations of terrorism against a freed aid worker who became a Muslim while held hostage in Somalia by Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabab.
"Whoever is detracting Silvia Romano should before doing so reflect on what it is like to be a 23-year-old abducted in Kenya and marched through the jungle on foot by gunmen armed with Kalashnikov rifles and taken to four different hideouts," Conte told reporters.
"Now she is back, we can listen (to her testimony) and verify the facts of the case," Conte said.
Conte's comment came after a lawmaker from the far-right League Party, Alessandro Pagano, alleged in parliament there was a “strong anti-religious bent” in Italy’s left-leaning coalition government, adding “and yet when a neo-terrorist comes back...".
Pagano's remark - which was met with jeers and derision from MPs and a reprimand from the acting parliament speaker - appeared to refer to a decision by Conte and foreign minister Luigi Di Maio to greet Romano at Rome’s Ciampino airport when she arrived back in Italy on Sunday.
Italian prosecutors this week opened a probe after Romano was bombarded with hate mail on social media since her return and a bottle was thrown at the window of her family's home in Milan.
Romano has told prosecutors that she converted freely to Islam and said to reporters that she was treated with "humanity" by her captors and was well "mentally and physically".
Romano was abducted from a village in southeast Kenya in November 2018 and held hostage for 18 months. Italian, Turkish and Somali intelligence services allegedly located Romano and the Italian government reportedly paid a ransom of several million dollars to Al-Shabab emissaries to secure her release.