In Brief

Matteo Salvini: court rules Italy’s deputy PM can be tried for kidnapping

Far-right interior minister stands by decision to hold 177 migrants on boat

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini should be tried for “aggravated kidnapping” for refusing to allow more than 150 migrants to disembark from a rescue ship docked in Sicily, a special court has ruled.

 The “surprise” decision means the controversial politician - also interior minister and leader of the far-right Northern League party - is just “one step away from facing trial”, says The Guardian.

He was placed under investigation in August for alleged abuse of power and holding people against their will following a stand-off when Italian coastguard ship Diciotti rescued 177 people, most of them Eritreans, from the Mediterranean Sea.

The majority of the migrants were forced to remain on the boat for almost a week, despite “desperate living conditions aboard”, reports Qatar-based newspaper the Gulf Times.

Salvini spent six days trying to persuade EU leaders to disperse the migrants across multiple countries, before finally letting them disembark after Ireland, Albania and Italy’s Catholic Church agreed to take most of them.

Responding to this week’s ruling, Salvini posted a video on his Facebook account in which he said: “Yes, yes, yes, I lay claim to this, I confess it, I admit it, I blocked disembarkation proceedings for the migrants.

“If this is my guilt, if this is my crime, I declare myself guilty.”

In a written message, he added: “I risk three to 15 years in prison for blocking illegal landings in Italy. I have no words.”

The special tribunal, which reviews investigations involving government ministers, overturned a previous recommendation by prosecutors to drop the case.

The case will now go to the Italian Senate, which has the deciding say on whether members of Italy’s government should face prosecution, reports international news network The Local.

Salvini has said he is confident that he will be backed by senators from his party, “but the support of his coalition partners, the populist Five Star Movement, is less than certain”, says The Independent.

The Five Star Movement, also known as M5S, runs on an anti-corruption platform that includes demanding the resignation of any politician who is under police investigation.

Two years ago, M5S Luigi Di Maio, now co-deputy prime minister, called for the resignation of Salvini’s predecessor, Angelino Alfano, who was under investigation for abuse of office.

“We cannot allow a minister of interior under investigation to remain in office,” Di Maio said at the time. 

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