Published: Fri, February 14, 2020
Global News | By Blake Casey

Matteo Salvini Will Stand Trial in Italy Migrant Ship Case

Matteo Salvini Will Stand Trial in Italy Migrant Ship Case

He says he acted to save Italy and will do it again when he returns to power.

But in order to start a trial, magistrates needed the backing of the senate which, on Wednesday, had to decide whether to allow the criminal case against Salvini to go ahead by lifting his immunity or whether proceedings should be halted.

The Italian senate was voting along party lines yesterday to allow former interior minister Matteo Salvini to be prosecuted - as he demands to be - for allegedly holding migrants hostage aboard a coast guard ship instead of letting them get off in Sicily.

The incident sparking their investigation took place in late July 2019, when 131 migrants on board a distressed boat were rescued in the Mediterranean by Italian coast guard ship Gregoretti.

"One in three Italians vote for the League, so it is clear that the party needs to talk to everybody, not just the radical right", he told a group of foreign reporters. The conviction could also bar him from political office, dashing his ambitions to lead a future government.

Before the vote, Salvini said the decision to prevent the migrants from disembarking was made with fellow members of government and, on Twitter he paraphrased a quote by the poet and fascist sympathiser Ezra Pound: "If a man is not willing to fight for his ideas either his ideas are worth nothing, or he is worth nothing".

Politicians from Premier Giuseppe Conte's ruling coalition have contended Salvini wants to boost his popularity among voters by casting himself as a martyr.

According to Italian Law, ministers cannot be tried for actions taken by them while they are in office without special approval.

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

"I will go to the Senate absolutely calm", Salvini said on Monday.

However, the head of the populist League party said that he defended Italy when he blocked the entrance of this, and other, boats to the Italian ports.

After the vote, Salvini said that he had "full and total faith in the justice system".

The Gregoretti migrants were allowed on Italian soil after other European Union nations, including Germany, agreed to take care of some of the people on board.

As foreign minister, Salvini launched a crackdown on unauthorized migration, something he linked to increased crime.

A Senate committee is to decide on lifting his immunity for forcing the charity rescue vessel Open Arms to remain at sea for days off the coast of Lampedusa in August past year.

Viti Crimi, interim leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), Salvini's former government partner, said "the League leader has been living in a confused state for months".

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