Supporters of Matteo Salvini raise banners with the writing 'Put Me On Trial Too' on them during a rally with the League party leader in Piazza Aldo Moro in Bollate, Milan. 16 September 2020 | PHOTO ANSA /MATTEO BAZZI
Supporters of Matteo Salvini raise banners with the writing 'Put Me On Trial Too' on them during a rally with the League party leader in Piazza Aldo Moro in Bollate, Milan. 16 September 2020 | PHOTO ANSA /MATTEO BAZZI

Italy's former interior minister and League party leader Matteo Salvini will appear before a judge on October 3 in the Sicilian city of Catania for a preliminary hearing in the Gregoretti case, in which he is accused of deprivation of liberty. In protest against the trial, the party will be holding several initiatives in Catania this week.

Italy's former interior minister and League party leader Matteo Salvini will appear before a judge on October 3 in the Sicilian city of Catania for a preliminary hearing in the Gregoretti case, in which he is accused of deprivation of liberty.

In his former role as minister, between July 27 and July 31 of last year, he blocked 131 migrants from disembarking from the Gregoretti Italian Coast Guard ship.

"I do not feel like a victim of the justice system," Salvini said at a rally in recent days. "I am speaking with my head held high because I think I served my country, carrying out a specific duty by fighting against human trafficking."

After having prepared the ground with a campaign entitled 'Put Me On Trial Too' -- producing pins and t-shirts and social media postings -- the League will be holding several initiatives in Catania before the hearing, from Thursday until Saturday, under the theme 'Italians Choose Freedom'.

Salvini's defense

The highlight of the initiatives will be on Saturday, when the League will entitle Catania as the 'European Capital of Freedom'. All the MPs and leading figures of the party have been called upon to attend.

''There will be three days of debates in places open to citizens,'' the League leader said. ''On the environment, education, work, the fight against the mafia, and precious employment. We will speak about freedom.''

His defense remains the same: ''It is abnormal to risk 15 years in jail for having delayed the disembarking of migrants for four days in order for France, Germany and Luxembourg to take on a part of those clandestine migrants,'' Salvini said. ''To be taken for a fool did not seem dignified to me.''

'I only did my duty'

The League leader called the trial ''bizarre, because it concerns someone who did everything in full compliance with regulations''. Salvini has sent a defense statement to the judge that he also posted on the League website. ''It is about 50 pages,'' he noted. ''I hope that many read it to become aware of what happened. I only did my duty, as minister and even before that as Italian, to defend the security and borders of our country. I hope to find an independent judge.''

As the trial begins against Salvini for stopping the disembarking, an investigation continues into League funding that has led to the arrest of three accountants. ''I never saw any money,'' Salvini claimed. ''I know that two of those people under investigation are very honest and I am reading a lot of foolishness (about the case). I trust that this, like other cases, will end in nothingness, simply because there was no such money.''

 

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