Former Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini appeared in court Saturday on kidnapping charges for refusing to allow a Spanish migrant rescue ship to dock in Sicily in 2019, keeping people on board for days.
This is the first lawsuit against Salvini for his actions to prevent the disembarkation of migrants when he served as Interior Minister from 2018 to 2019 in an uneasy coalition between the populist 5-star movement and its right-wing League.
Salvini attended the opening of the trial in Palermo, Sicily, which included procedural requests such as witness lists. Among those called is American actor Richard Gere, who visited the migrants aboard the Open Arms after seeing their plight during a family vacation in Italy.
“It’s unrealistic to pass the test because I did my job. I’m sorry because, I mean, tell me how severe the test can be when Richard Gere comes from Hollywood to testify about my career, ”Salvini said.
Salvini attended the opening of the trial in Palermo, Sicily, which was expected to focus mainly on procedural requests. He insisted that he had done his duty by refusing to board the rescue vessel Open Arms and the 147 people it had rescued in the Mediterranean off Libya.
Salvini has taken a tough line on incoming migrants, blocking ships and insisting that Europe take some of the burden off Italy.
The prosecutor’s office accuses Salvini of dereliction of duty and kidnapping for refusing to let the ship into port for several days in August 2019. During the nearly three-week standoff, some migrants threw themselves overboard in desperation, and the captain pleaded for a safe nearby port. Some migrants were brought ashore for humanitarian or health reasons, and the remaining 83 were eventually allowed to land in Lampedusa.
“We expect justice for the unnecessary suffering that all people have endured in these 20 days,” said the head of the Spanish NGO Open Arms Oscar Camps.
Earlier this year, a court in Catania, Sicily, ruled not to try Salvini in a similar case for keeping 116 migrants aboard an Italian Coast Guard ship at sea for five days, also in 2019.