On October 23, the trial against the former Interior Minister and leader of the right-wing La Liga party, Matteo Salvini, began formally in the Court of Palermo, Italy, on charges of kidnapping. This Saturday, the hearing focused on the admission of witnesses and the process will continue until December 17. The case dates back to 2019, when Salvini blocked the disembarkation of more than 100 migrants aboard a ship of the NGO Open Arms, which kept them overseas for several days.
It is an unprecedented trial against a leader in the European Union for preventing the entry of migrants amid the refugee crisis that the region has faced, especially in recent years.
The far-right and former Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini arrived on October 23 at the dock, at the beginning of the trial against him in the Court of Palermo, Sicily, after blocking the disembarkation of more than 100 people in a port of your country, in 2019.
The process began after Salvini was charged last April with kidnapping and abuse of power. This Saturday during the first judicial hearing it was decided on the admission of the witnesses requested by the parties involved.
There will be more than 50 people who will testify. Among them, the current Minister of the Interior, Luciana Lamorgese; Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, then Vice President of the Government; the former Minister of Transport, Danilo Toninell; the former Minister of Defense, Elisabetta Trenta; the commander of the Open Arms ship, Marc Reig; and the head of mission, Ana Isabel Montes Mier.
The next hearing was set for December 17, when the first witnesses, both from the defense and the accusing party, who will be military officers, are scheduled to be heard.
“We hope justice for the unnecessary suffering that all the people had in those 20 days,” said Oscar Camps, founder of the Spanish NGO Open Arms with which Salvini faced the disagreement.
This Saturday, the politician insisted on his argument that he acted in the line of duty and once again reproached the arrival of migrants to his nation.
Salvini posted on his Twitter account a photo of himself inside the courtroom, standing in front of one of the cells used for some defendants.
Qui Aula di Giustizia del carcere di Palermo. Il process voluto dalla sinistra e dai tifosi dell’immigrazione clandestina comincia: how much costerà ai cittadini italiani? pic.twitter.com/LKUUjLSOFD
– Matteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) October 23, 2021
“This is the courtroom of the Palermo prison. The trial wanted by the left and by fans of illegal immigration begins: how much will it cost Italian citizens?”, He published.
If convicted, the political leader would face up to 15 years in prison, highlighted the Italian newspaper ‘Il Fatto Quotidiano’.
The case that has Salvini on the ropes
Although Salvini prevailed against any disembarkation of undocumented persons in Italian ports while he served as Italy’s interior minister, the case that has brought him to trial dates back to August 2019.
At that time, the political leader refused to allow the landing of 147 people, according to official figures, mainly from Africa and who had been rescued by a ship from the Spanish NGO, Open Arms.
During the nearly three-week dispute, some desperate migrants threw themselves overboard and the captain pleaded for a nearby and safe port. Some migrants were taken ashore for humanitarian or health reasons, while others were finally, and after 19 days, allowed to disembark on the Italian island Lampedusa.
Salvini has repeatedly defended himself, stating that he was protecting the country with his “closed ports” policy, which was aimed at stopping people attempting the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean into Italy.
In 2020, Italy’s Senate voted to strip Salvini of his parliamentary immunity, paving the way for the trial, which will take several more months to conclude.
With AP and EFE