Italy: Senate okays League leader Salvini trial

For allegedly illegally detaining a group of migrants

12 February, 18:01

    League leader Matteo Salvini League leader Matteo Salvini

    ROME - The Senate on Wednesday voted to allow prosecutors to proceed against League leader Matteo Salvini for allegedly illegally detaining a group of migrants when he was interior minister in a previous government.

    The case regards Salvini's decision to not allow more than 100 rescued migrants to disembark from the Gregoretti Coast Guard ship for several days during a long standoff in July.

    The Senate's immunity panel had already given the OK for the Catania court of ministers' request to parliament to proceed against Salvini for allegedly abusing his power and the floor of the Upper House has now ratified the decision to lift Salvini's parliamentary immunity.

    Salvini, who operated a closed ports policy while interior minister in the last government, sending the League's poll ratings sky-high, faced prosecution before but his parliamentary immunity was never lifted so he could go to trial in previous similar cases.

    "I'm absolutely relaxed about this and proud of what I did," Salvini told ANSA after the vote, which members of his party did not take part in.

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

    "I swore on the Constitution, which says that defending the nation is every citizen's duty.

    "I defended Italy". Salvini argued that, as in other such cases, his decision was made with the rest of the government he was then part of.

    Premier Giuseppe Conte, on the other hand, said he was not involved in the specific decision of whether to allow the migrants to disembark.

    Salvini pulled the plug on Conte's first government in August prompting the creation of a new ruling majority.

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

    He said he had "no back-up plan" for that eventuality.

    He said he had "absolute and total faith" in the Italian judiciary.

    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.

    "First he hailed his decision on the Gregoretti case, then he cried plot, saying it was an action promoted by the whole government.

    "First he says he wants to be tried, then he doesn't want to any more, and then he wants to again.

    "He has changed his mind so many times that it's impossible to understand what he really thinks about it", Crimi said in a post entitled "Only fleeing and lies from Salvini".

    The M5S, which was in government with Salvini for 14 months until he toppled it last July, is now in government with the centre-left democratic Party (PD), ex-PD leader and former premier Matteo Renzi's centrist Italia Viva (IV) party, and the leftwing Free and Equal (LeU) party.

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