Italy's Senate sends Salvini to trial for kidnapping

Matteo Salvini

While the case may go on for years in Italy's plodding court system and could undermine his bid for power, Salvini instructed lawmakers from his League party not to oppose the trial, in order to allow him to defend his actions.

Italy's Senate voted to remove the immunity Matteo Salvini enjoyed as a minister.

Prosecutors in Sicily investigated Salvini for alleged kidnapping for keeping 131 rescued migrants aboard the Italian coast guard vessel for six days related to the incident.

His policies, which included denying migrant rescue ships access to Italian ports, brought his eurosceptic League party support at home and criticism overseas. Standing trial will allow him to portray himself as a victim of politically motivated persecution in the case, but a guilty verdict could hamper his chances to run for prime minister in future elections.

During Salvini's tenure, the ex-minister made incendiary speeches and statements about the migrant arrivals each time before an European Union burden-sharing deal was reached.

He has said that, as in other such cases, his decision was made with the rest of the government he was then part of.

Italian newspapers have reported that Salvini is concerned by the strong showing of FdI and its leader Giorgia Meloni, but he denied this on Thursday, saying all his partners need to grow if the right wants to win the next parliamentary election.

On February 27, a Senate committee will rule on whether to charge him with "detaining" 107 migrants on an NGO boat in Sicily, between 14 and 20 August 2019. At the end of a heated debate, the majority of the senators voted to lift Salvini's immunity and authorise the trial.

However, ministers can not be tried in Italy while in office unless their parliamentary immunity is removed.

Conte, who has remained prime minister while Salvini provoked his own ousting from government in August previous year, says he was not the one to decide whether the migrants should be allowed into port.

In July, two weeks before he abandoned a coalition with the 5-Star Movement, he refused to let migrants disembark from the Gregoretti coastguard vessel, ignoring pleas from human rights groups to let the group come ashore.

"Clearly there is a message that needs to be calibrated differently (in the cities)", said Salvini, comparing the League's problem to that of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has scored badly in larger urban areas.

"I am absolutely calm and proud of what I have done". Did minister Salvini act in the national interest? Mr Salvini could also be prosecuted over the Open Arms vessel, another migrant ship that was offshore for days last August.



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