ROME – A special tribunal has recommended that former Italian interior minister and far-right League party leader Matteo Salvini face trial for holding scores of migrants on board a coast guard ship docked in a port in Sicily in July.
In a court document seen by Reuters, Sicilian magistrates ask parliament for authorization to continue their investigation into Salvini for alleged kidnapping, saying he abused his powers and “deprived 131 migrants of personal liberty.
In July Salvini, then interior minister, ordered the migrants, including children, remain on board the Italian coast guard ship Gregoretti until other European countries agreed to take most of them in.
“Investigated because I defended the security, the borders and the dignity of my country, unbelievable,” the anti-migrant leader said in a statement. He called the investigation “shameful.
During his 14 months at the interior ministry, Salvini staked his credibility on a pledge to halt migrant flows, blocking Italian ports to rescue ships and threatening the charities operating them with fines.
The investigation echoes another case earlier this year.
In February, when the League was in government with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, parliament rejected a magistrates’ request to pursue a kidnapping probe into Salvini for refusing permission to disembark for some 150 migrants on a coast guard ship stranded off Sicily.
On that occasion the 5-Star, which had always criticized the practice of halting judicial proceedings against lawmakers, rescued Salvini and blocked the investigation after weeks of tension within the government.
But things have now changed. The League walked out of government in August and 5-Star formed a new coalition with the center-left Democratic Party (PD), which strongly opposes Salvini’s hard line against migrants.
The PD and other minor government parties are expected to vote to grant the authorization. It is unclear how 5-Star would vote this time.
The case will be examined by a 23-member upper house Senate committee. The timetable for its hearings has not yet been set.