Prosecutor asks to dismiss migrant ship case against Salvini

Ex-minister's lawyer says political choice shared by cabinet

13 April, 09:00

    (ANSAmed) - ROME, APR 13 - Prosecutors in Catania have said that former interior minister Matteo Salvini should not be tried on abduction charges over the delay in allowing 131 migrants to disembark from the Gregoretti vessel in July 2019 in Augusta, Sicily.

    Catania prosecutor Andrea Bonomo on April 10 asked Preliminary Hearings Judge (GUP) Nuncio Sarpietro to dismiss a case against former interior minister Matteo Salvini over illegally detaining migrants. The leader of the right-wing League party faces abduction charges for refusing a landing berth to the 131 migrants aboard the Gregoretti ship in July 2019. Authorization to land at Augusta, near Siracusa, came from a judge.

    Prosecutor Bonomo said at the hearing on April 10 that Salvini "did not violate any national and international convention" and that his choice to refuse a landing berth was "shared by the government". The State attorney asked the preliminary hearings judge to dismiss the case on the grounds that it did not "meet the criteria of the crime of abduction" because the "the case is nonexistent". The judge is scheduled to rule on May 14.

    Motivation of the prosecution The Catania prosecutor said that "the three-day-long wait cannot be considered as an illegitimate deprivation of freedom" of the migrants and "there is no obligation for the State to disembark immediately". Moreover, he added, "political directives had changed" at the time and the interior ministry had expressed the intention of assigning the POS (place of safety) "quickly", justifying the "administrative timing" to carry out the operation to disembark migrants "with minister Salvini's intention to obtain a redistribution in Europe". Bonomo added that "there is no judgement on the opportunity of that act" because in court "judgement is not political".

    However, the plaintiffs demanding a trial for Salvini - including the associations AccogliRete, Legambiente, Arci and a family of migrants who were onboard the Gregoretti - opposed the prosecutor's request. The attorney representing Legambiente, Daniela Ciancimino, said the former minister "illegitimately held" 131 people aboard the ship. The lawyer said Salvini should be tried on abduction charges also for the "suffering endured by migrants crammed on the Gregoretti ship".

    Salvini's attorney, Giulia Bongiorno, denied the claim. "The political choices of the government can be appreciated or not, but they are unquestionable based on the principle of the separation of powers. Decisions adopted in the national interest are impenetrable and can't be opposed judicially", Bongiorno said. "The criminal suit against Salvini shouldn't even have started because he carried out an unquestionable political act".

    According to the former minister's defense lawyer, her client's position was shared by the entire cabinet, led at the time by Giuseppe Conte, "to shake up Europe". "There was a new political orientation to allow the POS where redistribution in Europe was possible - everybody knew it", she concluded.

    Hearing commented by Salvini, center-right After the hearing, Salvini once reiterated he would do it all over again: "I am serenely going back to my children and I hope that things will be over on May 14. When I was a minister, contrary to others who don't remember, I wasn't afraid, I knew that there were duties and honors".

    Infrastructure Minister Alessandro Morelli, a member of Salvini's League party, said he was "proud like millions of Italians" of Salvini and "happy for the request of Catania's State attorney's office".

    Center-right Forza Italia Senator Maurizio Gasparri, president of the Senate's committee on elections and immunity, said it is "evident that this hypothesis of trial appears devoid of any foundation".

    (League leader and former Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini arrives at the bunker hall room of the Bicocca prison for a preliminary hearing on the Gregoretti case, in Catania, Italy, 10 April 2021. Photo: ANSA/ ORIETTA SCARDINO) (ANSAmed).

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