Italian Senate vote on Salvini’s immunity follows party lines

Clay Curtis
February 14, 2020

Leader of Italy's far-right party Matteo Salvini leaves after his speech at the Senate ahead of a vote on whether to pursue an investigation against him that could give rise to a trial for alleged kidnapping of migrants, in Rome, Italy, February 12, 2020.

The Italian Senate will vote on Wednesday (12 February) whether the far-right leader Matteo Salvini should be brought to court for "kidnapping" 131 migrants past year, when as the interior minister he prevented them from disembarking but forced them to stay aboard the Gregoretti coastguard ship.

The Senate vote fell 84 short of the number needed to overturn its commission's decision on Salvini's immunity last month.

A court in Sicily recommended that former interior minister Salvini stand trial for blocking migrants from disembarking from a coast guard boat last July. Standing trial will allow him to portray himself as a victim of politically motivated persecution in the case, but a guilty verdict could hamper his chances to run for prime minister in future elections.

Prime Minister Conte had called Mr Salvini as being "obsessed" with keeping migrants out of Italy.

"I'll do it again as soon as I get back in government".

The far-right League Party leader and former interior minister said he wanted to face trial after being accused of illegally keeping 116 people on a boat off the coast of Sicily for almost a week in August 2019.

League leader Matteo Salvini
League leader Matteo Salvini

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

Asked if he was anxious about becoming ineligible for office in the event of a conviction, Salvini said "absolutely not".

Before the debate began, Salvini took to Facebook to say he had his "head held high, with the calm conscience of those who have defended their land and people".

He also blamed other European Union countries, saying he was waiting for their decision on who would accept the 131 migrants on board the Coast Guard vessel Gregoretti.

After the vote, Salvini said that he had "full and total faith in the justice system". Similar standoffs played out in the Mediterranean Sea during the anti-immigration stance Salvini took as interior minister.

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".

In less than two years, there were about 25 stand-offs between rescue vessels and Italian authorities as a result of Salvini's policies, but some of these end up under the investigation of prosecutors.

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