The preliminary court hearings in the case of former deputy prime minister and head of the Italian Interior Ministry, leader of the opposition party “League,” Senator Matteo Salvini, accused of illegal detention and abuse of power, will begin on Saturday in the Sicilian city of Catania.
After the completion of the preliminary proceedings, which may involve several sessions, the judge, as reported by the Corriere Della Sera newspaper, must decide whether there is reason to start a full trial. Salvini is going to attend the upcoming session.
The acts incriminated against him date back to the period when he served as Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the Interior Ministry (June 2018 – September 2019). Then he banned the landing in Italian ports of 130 rescued migrants who were on board the Italian Coast Guard ship Gregoretti.
The Senate (Upper House of Parliament) had previously voted to authorize the prosecution of Salvini, who has parliamentary immunity. If his guilt is proven, he faces a prison sentence of three to ten years.
Salvini said he was not afraid of the court and stressed that he had acted exclusively in the interests of the country, ensuring the security of its borders, which is the responsibility of the head of the MIA. The heads of the center-right coalition allied parties are going to support the former deputy prime minister. Salvini’s supporters and opponents intend to hold demonstrations in Catania on Saturday.
The prosecution is not represented by the prosecutor’s office, but by a special tribunal for ministers, which was responsible for the investigation. As noted by the Corriere Della Sera, this body is already virtually dissolved due to the expiration of the terms of three of its prosecutors. At the same time, the prosecutor’s office had previously stated that it did not find the elements of the crime in Salvini’s actions.
Salvini is a deputy prime minister and head of the Interior Ministry, actually closed Italian ports for migrants rescued at sea on their way from Libya. In summer 2019, he banned all vessels of non-governmental organizations from entering them, virtually blocking their work in the Mediterranean. At the same time, the flow of illegal migrants to Italy decreased by more than 95% compared with the previous year.
The question of starting Salvini’s prosecution because of the situation with migrants was put to a vote in the Senate back in the period when he held government posts. At that time, the senators had expressed their opposition to such an investigation.
The incident with Gregoretti took place at the end of July 2019, on the eve of the government crisis provoked by Salvini himself and the collapse of the ruling coalition of the “League” and “5 Stars Movement”. As a result, Salvini left the office and the “League” withdrew from the ruling coalition. Subsequently, representatives of the “League” and “5 Stars Movement” repeatedly made mutual accusations and insults.