Italian Senate vote on Salvini’s immunity follows party lines

Elias Hubbard
February 14, 2020

The Italian Senate has voted and decided that far-right leader Matteo Salvini should face trial for illegally detaining migrants on a coast guard boat.

The Senate voted 152-76 in favour of removing the legal protection given to Salvini.

The M5S, which was in government with Salvini for 14 months until he toppled it last July, is now in government with the centre-left democratic Party (PD), ex-PD leader and former premier Matteo Renzi's centrist Italia Viva (IV) party, and the leftwing Free and Equal (LeU) party.

Migrants on the Gregoretti reportedly had only one toilet.

Conte, who has remained prime minister while Salvini provoked his own ouster from government in August past year, says he was not the one to decide whether the migrants should be allowed into port.

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

"I want to be proud of what I did, with my head held high", Salvini told reporters while fellow senators debated his fate.

The Gregoretti case is just one of Salvini's growing legal concerns.

Previously, a Sicilian court recommended that the far-right leader should face trial for ordering that more than 100 migrants remain on board a coastguard boat for several days in July 2019.

While the Gregoretti allowed several people off the ship for medical attention, some 116 people remained on board for days while Mr Salvini demanded other European Union countries take them in.

Magistrates in Sicily say this was an abuse of power and amounted to de facto kidnapping.

Under Italian law, former ministers can't be tried for actions undertaken while in office unless parliament authorizes it. There were subsequently 25 standoffs between rescue vessels and Italian authorities, some of which became the focus of investigations as prosecutors accused Salvini of illegal detention of migrants.

But the party says that in the case of the Gregoretti he acted alone.

Meanwhile, Salvini has seemingly made a decision to embrace the trials against him and use them as a political weapon.

The League was part of the governing coalition a year ago, but ended up in the opposition benches after Salvini triggered a government crisis last August, which led to the formation of a new coalition between the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the Democratic Party (PD).

His party is also facing two separate financial inquiries for possible money laundering and for global corruption over suspicions that it tried to obtain millions of euros via a secret Russian oil deal - accusations it denies.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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