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  • Salvini Faces Trial After Italian Senate Votes to Lift Immunity

    | Photo: Reuters

Published 12 February 2020
Opinion

“Unlike others who run away, I do not flee and I will calmly await judgment, first of the courts and then of the Italian people when they get to vote,” he told reporters.

Italy's Senate voted on Wednesday to lift the immunity for controversial far-right leader Matteo Salvini, paving the way for a potentially career-ending trial over accusations that he illegally detained migrants at sea last year.

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Based on the preliminary results obtained by Reuters on Wednesday, the majority of the Italian Senate was in favor of removing the legal protection that had shielded Salvini as a former cabinet minister.

This new deision gives magistrates in Sicily the go-ahead to press charges over his decision to keep more than 100 migrants blocked aboard a coastguard ship for six days last July as he waited for other European Union states to agree to take them in.

Salvini, the head of Italy’s League party who was serving as interior minister at the time, could eventually face up to 15 years in jail if found guilty at the end of Italy’s tortuous legal process. Conviction could also bar him from political office, dashing his ambitions to lead a future government.

Aware that the vote in the upper house Senate looked certain to go against him, Salvini sought to make political capital out of the case, saying he was ready to face prosecution.

“I have chosen against my own interests ... to go to court and rely on the impartiality of the judiciary,” said Salvini.

“Unlike others who run away, I do not flee and I will calmly await judgment, first of the courts and then of the Italian people when they get to vote,” he told reporters.

The byzantine nature of Italy’s legal system means Salvini faces no immediate risk, but the case could prove a distraction as other investigations start to pile up at his door.

Earlier this month another tribunal in Sicily recommended that Salvini stand trial over a separate migrant stand-off dating from last August, with parliament expected to decide on this case later in the year.

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Italy Salvini
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