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  • League party leader Matteo Salvini speaks during an anti-government demonstration in Rome, Italy, October 19, 2019.

    League party leader Matteo Salvini speaks during an anti-government demonstration in Rome, Italy, October 19, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 December 2019
Opinion

The case will be examined by a 23-member upper house Senate committee. The timetable for its hearings has not yet been set.

A special tribunal has recommended that former Italian interior minister and far-right League party leader Matteo Salvini face trial for holding scores of migrants on board a coastguard ship docked in a port in Sicily in July.

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In a court document seen by Reuters, Sicilian magistrates ask parliament for authorization to continue their investigation into Salvini for alleged kidnapping, saying he abused his powers and "deprived 131 migrants of personal liberty."

In July Salvini, then interior minister, ordered the migrants, including children, remain on board the Italian coastguard ship Gregoretti until other European countries agreed to take most of them in.

During his 14 months at the interior ministry, Salvini was systematically blocking Italian ports to rescue ships and threatening the charities operating them with fines.

The investigation echoes another case earlier this year.

In February, when the League was in government with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, parliament rejected a magistrates' request to pursue a kidnapping probe into Salvini for refusing permission to disembark for some 150 migrants on a coastguard ship stranded off Sicily.

On that occasion the 5-Star, which had always criticized the practice of halting judicial proceedings against lawmakers, rescued Salvini and blocked the investigation after weeks of tension within the government.

But things have now changed. The League walked out of government in August and 5-Star have formed a new coalition with the center-left Democratic Party (PD), which strongly opposes Salvini's hard line against migrants.

The PD and other minor government parties are expected to vote to grant the authorization, and on Wednesday 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio appeared to suggest his party will do the same.

He told state television network RAI that in the case of the Gregoretti ship Salvini had acted on his own initiative, rather than on behalf of the whole government, and said: "I hope Salvini can prove his innocence."

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