European Union economy commissioner Paolo Gentiloni on Thursday called for a freed Italian aid worker who converted to Islam while held hostage in Somalia to be left alone after she was vilified by rightwingers.
Gentiloni, a former Italian foreign minister, called the release last week of 25-year-old Silvia Romano after 18 months in captivity "wonderful news".
"Given that the Italian state managed to save her life, let's allow her to live that life," Gentiloni told Italian TV network La 7.
"That seems the least that a civilised country can do."
Romano was flown back to Italy on Sunday and was met at Rome's Ciampino airport by premier Giuseppe Conte and foreign minister Luigi Di Maio. But prosectors have opened a probe after she was deluged with hate mail on social media and a bottle was thrown at her family's first-floor apartment window in Milan.
Romano was called a "neo-terrorist" in parliament by a lawmaker from the far-right League party, a slur that outraged MPs of various political stripes and that drew a stern reprimand from the lower house of parliament speaker.
Romano was seized by gunmen from a village in southeast Kenya in November 2018 and held for 18 months in neighbouring Somalia by Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabab. She claims she converted to Islam freely and was well treated by her captors.
It is believed the Italian government paid a ransom of several million dollars for Romano's release - a claim that has also angered the Italian right.