Matteo Salvini after a Senate immunity panel rejected the request to send him to trial in Rome on May 26, 2020 | Photo: ANSA/Fabio Frustaci
Matteo Salvini after a Senate immunity panel rejected the request to send him to trial in Rome on May 26, 2020 | Photo: ANSA/Fabio Frustaci

A Senate immunity panel in Italy rejected a request to send former interior minister Matteo Salvini to trial for allegedly 'kidnapping' rescued migrants in the Open Arms case.

A Senate immunity panel on Tuesday rejected prosecutors' requests to send former interior minister Matteo Salvini to trial on charges of 'kidnapping' rescued migrants aboard the Open Arms

The panel voted by 13 to seven against the prosecutors' request to lift Salvini's parliamentary immunity to face trial.

One of the government parties, former premier Matteo Renzi's centrist Italia Viva (IV), did not take part in the vote saying the case had not been examined thoroughly enough. They said they would wait for the case to be examined by the whole of the Senate to express their position. They also said there had been some evidence that Salvini's move was backed by the whole government of the time, an alliance between the League and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S).

Salvini "satisfied" with the vote

After the vote, Salvini was jubilant. "The Senate panel voted and established that Salvini did his duty, acted in the public and not private interest," he said, adding that he was "satisfied" with the vote. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban commented on the vote as well, writing in a public message to Salvini: "Dear friend, congratulation," as well as "your struggle is a good struggle. We are with you, Matteo." Both Salvini and Orban are known for their far-right views and as advocates of radical anti-migration policies.

Salvini is under investigation in the city of Agrigento, Sicily, because he didn't allow the Open Arms rescue ship to dock in August of last year. The NGO-run ship spent almost three weeks at sea with 164 rescued migrants on board, until it was finally allowed to dock in the Italian island of Lampedusa. Salivini is accused of abduction and dereliction of duty in the case.

Several other 'kidnapping' cases

Even though the panel did not lift Salvini's immunity in the case, he could still face trial over his refusal to let migrant rescue vessels dock in Italy.

The Open Arms investigation is one of several migrant 'kidnapping' cases in which prosecutors have asked to put Salvini on trial.

A Catania judge on Monday put off, for the third time due to the coronavirus crisis, a preliminary hearing into Salvini's alleged 'kidnapping' of rescued migrants aboard a coast guard ship. In July 2019, the then-interior minister refused to let 131 migrants aboard the Gregoretti ship enter Italy, until a judge issued the ship an authorisation to land.  The hearing in this case is now set to take place on October 3.

Salvini has defended his decisions, saying that he was defending Italy's borders.
 

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