TO Matteo Salvini will have to defend from the bench of the accused his actions as Minister of the Interior of Italy, a position he held between June 2018 and September 2019 and in which was characterized by its strong hand against irregular immigration. The leader of the League, the first party in voting intention according to the polls, is going to be prosecuted after this Saturday was decided by a preliminary investigating judge of the Palermo Court. Judge Lorenzo Jannelli considered that there are indications of crime for his performance in August 2019 with a ship of the Spanish NGO Open Arms, who prevented for more than 20 days from disembarking the around 150 immigrants that he had saved in the central Mediterranean. Salvini will be prosecuted as of September 15 for an alleged crime of kidnapping people. The trial opens a source of instability for the current Government of Mario Draghi, which is supported by a coalition of which the League is part.
«The defense of the homeland is a sacred duty of the citizen. It’s in article 52 of the Constitution. Am I being prosecuted for this, for having defended my country? I hold my head high, “commented the leader of the League in a message posted on social networks. “It is a decision with a more political flavor than a judicial one”he added. Despite the risk of being convicted, for Salvini the trial offers a magnificent opportunity to vindicate his intransigence with illegal immigration. The far-right politician, in addition, will insist in his defense that the decision to block the disembarkation of the foreigners saved by the Open Arms ship was not only his, but that of the entire Government. In August 2019 the League formed an alliance with the ‘anti-caste’ 5 Star Movement (M5E) that had Giuseppe Conte as prime minister. Although when they shared power both Conte and the M5E let Salvini take his heavy hand on immigration to the last consequences, now they ignore the controversial blockades on landings.
Salvini’s lawyer, Giulia Bongiorno, insisted precisely during the four hours that she presented the defense arguments that it was the government as a whole that decided to prevent the immigrants from going ashore. “There is a salvinocentric vision”, said the lawyer, assuring that the Open Arms commander refused to disembark the foreigners in Malta or be accompanied to a Spanish port, the nationality of the ship. The odyssey of the displaced on board the ship ended when the Prosecutor’s Office ordered the disembarkation on the island of Lampedusa due to the difficult physical and psychological conditions of the foreigners, some of whom had thrown themselves into the sea to try to swim ashore.
Óscar Camps, founder of Open Arms, celebrated that the leader of the League is going to be prosecuted, which shows that “a fundamental right such as the protection of human beings at sea cannot be violated to carry out political propaganda”. In his opinion, it is “absurd that in the 21st century it has been accepted to question the protection of life and the dignity of people.” Camps also expressed his wish that the trial be an opportunity “to judge a piece of European history and to re-prioritize the democratic principles on which our constitutions are based.”
The decision of the Court of Palermo It caused some surprise because the leader of the League has another similar process open in Catania, also on the island of Sicily, whose route could be very different. This other case is motivated by the blockade for five days of the disembarkation of 131 immigrants who were aboard the military ship ‘Gregoretti’ in July 2019. On April 10, the Prosecutor’s Office requested that the case be closed, arguing that “it is not possible to talk about kidnapping people. On May 14, the preliminary investigating judge will report whether Salvini also has to be prosecuted as in Palermo or, on the contrary, this case may be shelved.
The diversity of criteria between the Catania Prosecutor’s Office and the Palermo Court was criticized by Roberto Calderoli, vice president of the Senate and one of the heavyweights of the League. “It is very sad for justice to see that in Catania the case is requested to be closed while in Palermo, due to substantially identical facts, the prosecution is decided,” he commented.
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