Italy`s ex-minister Salvini to face trial in migrant detention case

Cheryl Sanders
February 14, 2020

The Italian Senate reportedly voted in favour of lifting Matteo Salvini's immunity on Wednesday, clearing the way for the far-right opposition leader to go to trial for mistreating migrants.

The Senate vote fell 84 short of the number needed to overturn its commission's decision on Salvini's immunity last month. After the tally was announced in the Italian Senate, Salvini compared himself to US President Donald Trump who was also impeached by the Democrats in the House of Representatives but just recently acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate.

One of Salvini's first moves since he took office as interior minister in June 2018 was to declare Italian ports closed to rescue ships engaged in saving migrants fleeing Libya.

"Ready to intervene in the Senate with head held high and the clear conscience of someone who has defended his land and his people", Salvini said via Twitter.

Opinion surveys make Mr Salvini one of Italy's most popular leaders.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Liverpool, England, slammed Salvini as a "fascist" who promotes "division and hate", saying he wouldn't be welcome in the city for his Euroskeptic League party's global conference scheduled to take place there next month. "I have full and total faith in the justice system", Salvini told ANSA news agency after the vote.

Their decision paves the way for magistrates in Sicily to launch a criminal investigation over his decision to hold migrants and refugees on board the Gregoretti, an Italian coast guard vessel, for several days while he tried to persuade other European Union countries to take them in. Did minister Salvini act in the national interest?

The Gregoretti investigation echoes another case from earlier a year ago when magistrates sought to try Salvini over his decision to keep 150 migrants aboard a coastguard ship for five days in August 2018. That standoff ended when Sicilian prosecutors ordered the evacuation of the migrants from the ship to land. Salvini's League party is now in the opposition.

Sicilian prosecutors eventually shelved the case, but another judicial body made a decision to proceed. The Tribunal of Ministers handles cases involving alleged misdeeds government ministers performed while carrying out their official duties.

The mayor of Liverpool launched a scathing attack against former the Italian deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, on Thursday.

However, that vote was not binding since the final decision belongs to the senate. But the gamble backfired, at least in the short run, with his party failing to pull off victory.

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