Matteo Salvini, an ex-minister of interior in Italy, is now facing up to 15 year imprisonment in controversial case over his order in 2019 to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea to enter Italy.
The trial, which started on Saturday in Palermo, is about one particular incident among dozens that happened during Salvini’s tenure as interior minister. The trial concerns Salvini’s refusal to let 147 migrants disembark at Lampedusa on August 2019. It lasted about 19 days until a court overruled the ban on rescue boats entering Italian waters.
Salvini leads the Right-Wing, Anti-Immigration Lega Nord (North League), party. At the time of his crimes, he was deputy prime minister as well as interior minister within an unconventional coalition government that included the Left-Wing Five Star Movement (M5S). He could be sentenced to up to 15 years for the crime of abusing his power by kidnapping and torturing migrants.
Initially, the trial was set for September 15th. However, it was postponed over a month in order to find a larger courtroom so more people could participate.
Salvini, a defiant man, tweeted the photo of the scene and said that his prosecution had been canceled “required by the left and the fans of illegal immigration”. He stated that illegal migrants had arrived in Italy in large numbers under the present government, and that he was only doing what he needed to do as an interior minister in order to stem the flow.
Qui Aula di Giustizia del carcere di Palermo. Il processo voluto dalla sinistra e dai tifosi dell’immigrazione clandestina comincia: quanto costerà ai cittadini italiani? pic.twitter.com/LKUUjLSOFD
— Matteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) October 23, 2021
Salvini claimed that all of the cabinet approved the policy to prevent migrants, even Giuseppe Conte who was then the prime minister. Conte is currently the leader M5S. During the trial, Conte, Luciana Lamorgese (Interior Minister) and Luigi Di Maio (Foreign Minister), are expected to be witnesses.
Richard Gere (an actor who delivered food to the people aboard the ship that was stranded) previously agreed to also testify. It’s unclear if he will take the stand in Palermo.
Oscar Camps (founder and Director of Open Arms) defended the operation outside the courtroom. “Saving people isn’t a crime, but an obligation not only by captains but by the entire state,”He spoke to journalists.
These rescue missions are opposed by opponents who claim that people sailing towards Europe in boats or rafts with their families are not political refugees but economic migrants who require protection. Many believe that Open Arms and other NGOs facilitate the flow.
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Defiant Salvini says opponents ‘will be defeated by history’ as Senate lifts his immunity in migrant ‘kidnapping’ case
Many of Salvini’s supporters believe his trial to be politically motivated. In February 2020, the Italian parliament removed Salvini’s immunity from prosecution. This was long after the League M5S government had collapsed. League opposed the Conte second government at that time. Senators from Salvini’s party boycotted the vote.
The Sicilian court dismissed an identical case in May “kidnapping”A separate case was brought against the former minister of interior. This case concerns a ship that protected migrants and was prevented from arriving in Catania during six days of July 2019.
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