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Italy’s Salvini to face new trial over migrant ship blockade

Open Arms ship, 15 Aug 19

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AFP

Image caption

The migrant ship was not allowed to dock in Lampedusa

Italy’s Senate has voted to allow the prosecution of ex-interior minister Matteo Salvini for blocking a migrant ship off Italy’s coast last August.

More than 100 migrants were stuck on the Spanish rescue ship Open Arms for 19 days off the isle of Lampedusa.

Prosecutors in Sicily accuse Mr Salvini of illegal detention, which could bring a jail term of up to 15 years.

The anti-immigration, right-wing politician is already set to stand trial in a similar case.

The Senate voted 149 to 141 to strip him of his parliamentary immunity in the latest case, paving the way for prosecution.

Mr Salvini, 47, insists that preventing irregular migrants from disembarking in Italy was government policy at the time.

“Defending Italy is not a crime. I am proud of it, I would do it again, and I will do it again,” he said on Wednesday.

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EPA

Image caption

Matteo Salvini is trying to stage a political comeback

His blockade of the ship caused an outcry and a serious split in the coalition government at the time. His League party was in a coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star, but now he is an opposition MP.

In February, the Senate voted to strip him of his parliamentary immunity in a similar case, involving the Italian coastguard boat, Gregoretti.

The opening court hearing in that case has been postponed until 3 October because of coronavirus restrictions.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had called Mr Salvini “obsessed” with keeping migrants out of Italian ports.

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