Italian right-wing leader Salvini to stand trial for failing to allow migrant ship to dock


Right-wing Italian leader Matteo Salvini will face trial on migrant “kidnapping” in September for his decision in 2019 as interior minister not to allow an NGO ship full of migrants to dock at an Italian port.

Salvini’s Nationalist League (Lega) was part of a coalition government between 2018 and 2019 with the 5-star populist movement. In this role, Salvini launched a crackdown on illegal migration from Africa, which was assisted by NGO migrant ships that picked up migrants in the Mediterranean and then brought them to Italy.

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In this file photo from February 12, 2020, opposition leader Matteo Salvini speaks at the end of the debate in the Italian Senate on whether to allow him to be prosecuted.  (AP Photo / Andrew Medichini, file)

In this file photo from February 12, 2020, opposition leader Matteo Salvini speaks at the end of the debate in the Italian Senate on whether to allow him to be prosecuted. (AP Photo / Andrew Medichini, file)

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Salvini accused the groups of encouraging illegal migration and called on the EU to help Italy tackle the flow of migrants from Libya. In this role, Salvini was one of the most important nationalist-populist leaders to take office after the 2015 migrant crisis that rocked the continent.

As part of this fight, he refused to allow the rescue vessel, managed by the NGO Open Arms, to dock with the 147 migrants he had on board in August 2019. After a 19-day standoff, the migrants remaining on board were allowed to disembark. The ship was not prohibited from going anywhere other than Italian ports.

Salvini was under investigation at the time for possible kidnapping charges and on Saturday a judge ordered him to stand trial in September. Salvini stood by his decisions during his tenure and said he would be tried with “a clear conscience”.

“Am I going to trial for this, for defending my country?” he tweeted after the decision. “I will go with my head held high, also on your behalf.

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The Spain-based Open Arms welcomed the move, calling it “a reminder to Europe and the world that there are principles of individual responsibility in politics.”

While the League was pulled from the ruling coalition in 2019 after it collapsed when Salvini introduced a no-confidence motion, polls suggest it is the most popular holiday in the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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