Italy's Salvini to face new trial over migrant ship blockade

Clay Curtis
July 31, 2020

Magistrates in Sicily want to try Salvini for alleged abuse of office and illegally detaining the migrants, saying he acted independently of the government.

"It will be a joy for me to go to (court in) Sicily to defend my right to defend our lovely country", Salvini, 47, told the Senate before the vote, knowing that it would go against him.

A view of Spanish humanitarian ship Open Arms on 15 August 2019.

"The cowards, the human traffickers and those who preferred a top position to having dignity are celebrating", said Salvini.

That is the same defence Salvini is using in the other trial, in which he is accused of blocking migrants from disembarking from the Italian "Gregoretti" coast guard boat last July.

He insisted that the decision to prevent migrants from getting off the boat - before a deal has been reached by European Union nations to take them was attained collectively inside the authorities.

The head of the anti-immigrant League party is already set to stand trial in a separate but similar case. His League party was in a coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star, but now he is an opposition MP.

In February, the Senate voted to strip Salvini of his parliamentary immunity in that case.

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The opening court hearing because case has actually been delayed up until 3 October since of coronavirus limitations.

Prime minister Giuseppe Conte has previously branded Mr Salvini "obsessed" with keeping migrants out of Italian ports.

Thursday's vote was close.

It's in relation to a case a year ago when he refused to let a rescue ship carrying scores of migrants dock at the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Political analyst Franco Pavoncello said a go-ahead from the Senate on the Open Arms trial would "certainly have an impact on Salvini", whose popularity has dropped since the coronavirus pandemic swept through Italy.

Salvini's resistance League celebration remains the most popular in Italy, but it's been slipping in opinion polls.

A Demopolis poll found that the Lega Nord has seen a decline of 11 points this year, from holding a voter intention of 37%, down to 25.4% in recent polling.

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