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Italy Senate votes on migrant trial for far-right leader Salvini

Italy Senate votes on migrant trial for far-right leader Salvini”

Matteo Salvini will face trial for stopping migrants from landing in Italy, gifting the former deputy prime minister a public platform for his anti-refugee policy after recent setbacks.

Italy's right-wing opposition leader Matteo Salvini compared himself to President Trump Wednesday after the Italian Senate voted to allow prosecutors to put him on trial for allegedly holding 132 migrants hostage by forcing them to remain on a coast guard vessel, rather than enter an Italian port.

The vote fell 84 short of the number needed to overturn a Senate commission's decision last month to lift Salvini's immunity.

Migrants on the Gregoretti reportedly had only one toilet.

The Salvini-led centre-right bloc lost a regional ballot last month in the wealthy Emilia Romagna region, a leftist stronghold, dashing his hopes of a historic triumph that could have triggered the downfall of Italy's fragile coalition government.

As interior minister, Salvini launched a crackdown on unauthorized migration, blaming migrants for crime and other problems.

"I'll do it again as soon as I get back in government".

Aware that the vote looked certain to go against him, Salvini sought to make political capital out of the case, saying he had only been defending national interests.

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On February 27, a Senate committee will rule on whether to charge him with "detaining" 107 migrants on an NGO boat in Sicily, between 14 and 20 August 2019.

"Ready to intervene in the Senate with head held high and the clear conscience of someone who has defended his land and his people", Salvini said via Twitter. At the end of a heated debate, the majority of the senators voted to lift Salvini's immunity and authorise the trial.

Under Italian law, ministers have parliamentary immunity for actions taken while they were in office.

He said he had "absolute and total faith" in the Italian judiciary. Similar standoffs played out in the Mediterranean Sea during the anti-immigration stance Salvini took as interior minister.

Most of the rescued migrants were thus blocked on board the Gregoretti, which docked at a Sicilian port for six days, until other European Union (EU) countries agreed to accept some of them.

Viti Crimi, interim leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), Salvini's former government partner, said "the League leader has been living in a confused state for months".

The Gregoretti investigation echoes another case from earlier previous year when magistrates sought to try Salvini over his decision to keep 150 migrants aboard a coastguard ship for five days in August 2018.



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