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Migration: Italian prosecutors seek second Salvini trial

March 20, 2021

Italy's former interior minister, Matteo Salvini, faces 15 years in jail if he is found guilty of kidnapping charges. The case stems from his decision to prevent a migrant ship from landing in the country.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of the right-wing League party
Salvini says he was merely executing government policyImage: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Cimaglia

Italian prosecutors on Saturday formally called for Matteo Salvini, the leader of the right-wing League party, to be tried on kidnapping charges after he stopped more than 100 migrants from landing in the country two years ago.

Salvini's decision, made when he was Italy's interior minister, left them stranded at sea until authorities ordered the seizure of the ship and the evacuation of the people on board.

Some of migrant minors allowed to disembark the Open Arms vessel
Some of those migrants who eventually made it to Italian shores from the Open Arms shipImage: Salvatore Cavalli/AP Photo/picture alliance

The 48-year-old senator faces a possible 15 years in jail if convicted. Judges could also hand him a lifetime ban from holding public office.

What has Salvini said about the case?

But the former deputy prime minister said he was not concerned about facing legal action, the second such case in relation to his previous stint in government.

"I am proud to have worked to protect my country, respecting the law, waking up Europe and saving lives. If this should cause me problems and suffering, I'll gladly take it on," Salvini wrote on Facebook.

He argues the policy was not his alone, but was agreed by Giuseppe Conte's government of the time.

The Senate voted 149 to 141 last July to strip him of his parliamentary immunity in the latest case, paving the way for prosecution.

What has the ship operator said?

The ship, operated by Spanish NGO Open Arms, spent days anchored off the island of Lampedusa. It was forced to wait for permission to disembark, as the situation on board deteriorated.

Open Arms wrote on Twitter: "Violating the rights of vulnerable people is a crime in any democratic country that respects the constitution and international conventions."

The next hearing will take place in Palermo on April 17, where a senior judge will decide on how to proceed.

jf/sri (AFP, Reuters)