Italy: Matteo Salvini faces trial on kidnapping charge | News | DW | 17.04.2021
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Italy: Matteo Salvini faces trial on kidnapping charge

The Open Arms vessel was left at sea for 19 days after the Italian interior minister at the time did not allow it to dock at a Sicilian port. Matteo Salvini is accused of abuse of office and unlawful detention.

Matteo Salvini speaks to reporters wearing an Italy face mask

Salvini has maintained he was just putting Italy first

An Italian judge on Saturday ordered former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini stand trial for refusing to let a migrant rescue ship dock at a Sicilian port in 2019, leaving 147 people stranded at sea.

Judge Lorenzo Iannelli set September 15 as the trial date after a hearing in Palermo.

Salvini confirmed the outcome and insisted he was only performing his duty as a proud Italian by refusing entry to the Open Arms rescue ship.

Watch video 03:53

African migrants stuck in Spanish limbo

Salvini's Italy first mantra

Citing the Italian Constitution, Salvini tweeted that defending the country was the "sacred duty" of every Italian. "I'm going on trial for this, for having defended my country? I'll go with my head held high, also in your name," before concluding, "Italy first. Always."

Palermo prosecutors have accused Salvini of a dereliction of duty and kidnapping, for keeping the migrants at sea off the coast of Lampedusa in August 2019.

19-day ordeal

During the standoff, some of the migrants threw themselves overboard in desperation.

Eventually, after a 19-day ordeal, the remaining 83 migrants still on board were allowed to disembark in Lampedusa after a court overturned Salvini's ban on private rescue boats entering Italian waters.

Salvini maintained an anti-migration stance during his time as interior minister in the first government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, from 2018 to 2019.

Open Arms welcomed Saturday's ruling. "Salvini on trial accused of kidnapping people and omission," the NGO tweeted. "We are happy for all the people we rescued in that mission and for all the vulnerable people saved so far in the sea of ​​shame."

jsi/aw (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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