Salvini claims he acted 'his role' in Rackete defamation case

As senator, while prosecutor calls it a personal attack

13 June, 09:00

    (ANSA) - ROMA, 13 GIU - In the first hearing in a trial against the leader of Italy's far-right League party, Matteo Salvini, on charges of aggravated defamation against Carola Rackete, the former captain of the Sea Watch 3 ship, the defence team of the former interior minister said that his statements against the activist had been political and not liable to prosecution.

    The prosecution rejected this and said that it had instead been a "direct attack on the person".

    A battle was waged in the courtroom on Thursday during the first hearing of a Milan trial against the leader of Italy's far-right League party, Matteo Salvini, on charges of aggravated defamation against Carola Rackete, the former captain of the Sea Watch 3 ship.

    In June and July 2019, Salvini is charged with having damaged the reputation of the young woman with Facebook Lives and posts on Twitter using such phrases in her regard such as "that snotty little captain", the "German criminal" and the "rich and spoilt Communist".

    The defence team of the former interior minister, with the lawyer Claudia Eccher, asked the judge of the fourth section of the criminal court to shelve the case because the statements were a "political message" expressed while in his role as senator.

    "They were not phrases that are part of political debate, even of the ministry of that time. They were true attacks on the person, on her dignity, expressions of denigration. It was a direct attack on the person," replied prosecutor Giancarla Serafini, asking for the request to be denied.

    "We are in front of not just an ugly phrase; what we are seeing is hate speech created by a man abusing his office," the plaintiff's lawyer, Salvo Tesoriero said.

    He and his colleague Alessandro Gamberini are defending the German activist in the case.

    The hearing was adjoined to June 23.

    Charges and defense Salvini's defence team has raised two preliminary issues on which the judge will rule on June 23: the request for a "ruling that the case is on charges that cannot be prosecuted", which would result in the immediate shelving of the case, and otherwise a ruling that the case cannot go forward because authorisation was not requested from the Senate.

    They then made reference to an intervention at the Senate on July 11, 2019, when the League leader was a minister and in which he had given an accounting of his immigration policies, with which he had "sharply reduced (migrant boat) departures and (migrant) deaths".

    According to his defence team, the statements made on Rackete - who was arrested for a few hours for having violated the Italian authorities' orders - was part of the context of expressing his thoughts on political action.

    Rackete had on June 29, 2019, sailed the Sea Watch 3 into the Lampedusa port to disembark 53 migrants that had been onboard the ship for more than two weeks.

    The "language used by the League and new parties like the Five Star Movement", Eccher said, "is characterised by a change in linguistic paradigm, by clear and direct language".

    The prosecutor responded by saying that the judges could decide whether such words as "delinquent" and "German tick" were part of normal political language for a minister.

    He added that even in that period Rackete's arrest was not signed by the preliminary investigation judge, who noted that the young woman's actions were "the carrying out of her duty".

    Following the posts by Salvini (criminal solicitation charges against him were shelved on the prosecutor's request), the prosecutor noted, "very violent threats and terrible words were used" against the woman, "making it possible to assume that there may be risks" to the woman resulting.

    (Matteo Salvini during an election campaign in Riace.

    PHOTO/ARCHIVE/ANSA/MARCO COSTANTINO) (ANSA).

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