Italy: Salvini to face new trial over migrant ship blockade

Italian senate revokes Salvini's immunity from trial over migrant detention in Open Arms case.

Italy's senate has voted to allow the prosecution of former interior minister Matteo Salvini for blocking a migrant ship off the Italian coast last August, in the so-called Open Arms case.

Salvini is accused of the 'kidnapping' of migrants on the Open Arms rescue ship when he was interior minister in premier Giuseppe Conte's first government, reports Italian news agency ANSA.

More than 100 migrants were stuck on board the Spanish rescue ship Open Arms for 19 days off the tiny island of Lampedusa, after Salvini refused to grant the ship permission to dock.

The authorisation to proceed with the case was approved on 30 July by the senate which voted 149 to 141 to strip Salvini of his parliamentary immunity, paving the way for prosecution.

Salvini, leader of the anti-immigration, right-wing Lega party, stands accused of illegal detention, which could see him serve up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Salvini insists that preventing irregular migrants from disembarking in Italy was government policy at the time and that the decision to block the Open Arms ship was reached collectively within the government.

Salvini also faces a separate trial, in which he is accused of blocking migrants from disembarking from the Italian Gregoretti coastguard boat last July, after the senate voted to strip him of his parliamentary immunity in February.

Stating that he has a "clear conscience," a defiant Salvini said on 30 July: "Defending Italy is not a crime. I am proud of it, I would do it again, and I will do it again."

A recent Demopolis poll found that Salvini's Lega has dropped more than 11 percentage points in a year, from holding 37 per cent of voting intentions to 25.4 per cent today.

Photo credit: M.Moira / Shutterstock.com

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Italy: Salvini to face new trial over migrant ship blockade

Lampedusa, Italy