Italian ex-minister faces kidnapping trial for blocking migrant ship

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Italy’s former interior minister, Matteo Salvini, went on a trip on charges of hijacking after Spain’s migrant rescue ship docked in Sicily, forcing people to stay at sea for several days.

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It is the first trial to escalate against Mr Salvini for his actions to stop migrant landings while serving as interior minister during 2018 and 2019 in an uneasy alliance between the populist 5-Star Movement and his right-wing league group.

He was present for the opening day of the trial in Palermo, Sicily, which was expected to deal with most procedural requests.


He has insisted he was fulfilling his duty by refusing entry to the Open Arms Rescue Ship, and in 2019 rescued 147 people in the Mediterranean from Libya.

He took a tough stand on the arrival of migrants, blocking ships and prompting Europe to take some of the burden off Italy.

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Prosecutors charged Salvini with neglect of duty and hijacking for refusing to allow the ship into port for days in August 2019.

During the nearly three-week standoff, some migrants threw themselves overboard in desperation and the captain pleaded for a nearby safe harbor. Some migrants were taken over land for humanitarian or health reasons, while the remaining 83 were eventually allowed to land on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Oscar Camp, head of Spanish non-governmental organization Open Arms, said: “We hope for justice for the unnecessary suffering that all people have suffered in those 20 days.”

A court in Catania, Sicily, earlier this year decided not to prosecute Salvini in a similar case, for holding 116 migrants on an Italian Coast Guard ship at sea for five days, also in 2019.


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