A migrant onboard the rescue vessel Open Arms looks towards the Italian coast on August 18, 2019 | Photo: EPA/Fransisco Gentico
A migrant onboard the rescue vessel Open Arms looks towards the Italian coast on August 18, 2019 | Photo: EPA/Fransisco Gentico

Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Italian far-right party League, is under investigation in the city of Agrigento, Sicily. He is being probed for abduction and dereliction of duty because he didn't allow a rescue ship to dock .

Prosecutors in Agrigento are looking specifically at the case of 164 migrants who were rescued by the NGO-run ship Open Arms in early August, judicial sources said this week. Salvini had refused to let them disembark in Italy. The Open Arms spent almost three weeks at sea until it was finally allowed to dock at the Italian island of Lampedusa.

This is the second time in just over a year that prosecutors in Agrigento, Sicily, have opened an investigation into League leader Matteo Salvini for not allowing a migrant rescue ship to dock at an Italian port. 

The ex-minister was officially placed under investigation on Saturday, November 16. Court papers were sent to prosecutors in Palermo on Monday, November 18. They need to uphold or change charges filed by their colleagues in Agrigento before the charges are transmitted to the Court of Ministers in Palermo, which is the institution with jurisdiction over the case. 

Probes against Salvini for other similar cases led to nothing. 

The Open Arms case 

When he was in government, Salvini took a tough stance on immigration and tried to close Italy's ports to NGO-run migrant rescue ships 

The League leader commented the probe saying that he will "ask how much this investigation is costing, how much time [investigators are] losing and how much public money of the Italian people is being spent to investigate or persecute Matteo Salvini as a dangerous kidnapper." He added: "I think there are real criminals and much more serious crimes in Agrigento or in Sicily that should be prosecuted rather than politically opposing the choice to defend borders." 

Legal procedures regarding a government member are regulated by constitutional law 1 from 1989. It states that prosecutors now have 15 days of time to evaluate the case. State attorneys in Palermo could uphold the charges filed by their colleagues in Agrigento and ask the court of ministers to request the Senate to authorize legal action against Salvini, or dismiss the case. There is also a third option: they could ask magistrates to further look into specific issues. 
 

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