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  • Carola Rackete, 31-year-old Sea-Watch 3 captain, disembarks from a Finance Police boat and is escorted to a car, in Porto Empedocle, Italy, July 1, 2019.

    Carola Rackete, 31-year-old Sea-Watch 3 captain, disembarks from a Finance Police boat and is escorted to a car, in Porto Empedocle, Italy, July 1, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 5 July 2019

Rackete has been targeted by Internet trolls, with threats of rape and death thrown her way on social media. She is currently in hiding.

The German captain of a migrant rescue ship will sue Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini for defamation, her lawyer said Friday, intensifying the battle of wills between the charity worker and the far-right leader.

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Carola Rackete, 31, was freed from house arrest Tuesday after a judge dismissed accusations she had endangered the lives of Italian servicemen by ignoring military orders and bringing a boatload of migrants to the port of Lampedusa.

Rackete’s lawyer Alessandro Gamberini said a lawsuit had been drawn up. “We have already prepared the case against minister Salvini,” he told Radio Cusano Campus, accusing the minister of stirring up hatred.

“A defamation case is a way of sending a signal. When people get hit in the wallet they understand that they cannot insult people gratuitously,” Gamberini said, referring to the fines that might be inflicted on Salvini if he loses the case.

Salvini, who heads the far-right League party and also serves as deputy prime minister in the coalition government, has repeatedly denounced Rackete, calling her a “pirate” and an “outlaw,” and promising to expel her from Italy.

“She breaks laws and attacks Italian military ships, and then sues me. Mobsters don’t frighten me, let alone a rich and spoiled German communist!” he responded on Twitter.

Rackete herself still faces possible charges of aiding asylum seekers and disregarding public officials and will be questioned in Sicily by magistrates next week. Her Sea-Watch 3 boat has been impounded as the investigation continues.

Since taking office a year ago, Salvini has introduced a battery of anti-migrant measures, leading to a sharp decline in new arrivals also in the number of charity ships operating off the coast of Libya in search of flimsy migrant boats.

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