A group of 30 migrants on the Open arms that reached Porto Empedocle (Ag), from Lampedusa, on the Sansovino ship, August 23, 2019 | Photo: ANSA/PASQUALE CLAUDIO MONTANA LAMPO
A group of 30 migrants on the Open arms that reached Porto Empedocle (Ag), from Lampedusa, on the Sansovino ship, August 23, 2019 | Photo: ANSA/PASQUALE CLAUDIO MONTANA LAMPO

There are two investigations in Italy, looking in to the delayed disembarking of migrants involving former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini as defendant. The cases are now being heard by preliminary investigative judges in Sicily.

The two investigations involving former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini are underway in front of preliminary investigative judges in Sicily.

The first involves the Open Arms rescue ship, and was opened by the Agrigento prosecutor's office but later moved to the Sicilian capital Palermo, with an indictment of the League party leader, Matteo Salvini.

The second concerns the Gregoretti ship, and is being heard in Catania in eastern Sicily. In this case, the preliminary investigative judge Nunzio Sarpietro is expected to announce his decision on May 14.

Past cases

Two other cases have also been dealt with in the capital of the Sicilian region. The first involved the disembarking of the Diciotti ship, for which the Senate refused to authorize a continuation of the case against Salvini.

The second involved the humanitarian rescue organization Sea-Watch in which the former minister was under investigation alongside the then-Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, and Minister Danilo Toninelli. This case was shelved.

The cases date from a couple of years ago and have gone through several stages since. Here we round up the main phases of each case.

League party leader Matteo Salvini after Judge Lorenzo Jannelli indicted him for the Open Arms case in Palermo, April 17, 2021 | Photo: Igor Petyx / ANSA
League party leader Matteo Salvini after Judge Lorenzo Jannelli indicted him for the Open Arms case in Palermo, April 17, 2021 | Photo: Igor Petyx / ANSA

Open Arms case

On August 20, 2019 Agrigento's chief prosecutor Luigi Patronaggio and assistant Salvatore Vella ordered the seizure, as a precaution, of the Open Arms ship and the immediate disembarkation on Lampedusa of the migrants who had been left on the ship for 19 days. Some 147 migrants had been rescued at sea a few weeks earlier.

On August 29, 2019, Agrigento preliminary investigative judge Stefano Zammuto upholds the seizure but orders that the ship be given back to the NGO.

On November 15, 2019, the Agrigento prosecutor's office puts Salvini under investigation as interior minister for the "kidnapping and refusal to follow orders" and sends the official deeds to Palermo.

On November 29, 2019 the prosecutor's office sends official papers to the Palermo court of ministers.

By February 1, 2020, Palermo's court of ministers asked the Senate for authorization to move forward with the case.

May 26, 2020, the council for the Senate immunity rejects the request to move forward with the case.

July 30, 2020 - The Senate, with 149 in favor and 141 against, grants authorization to proceed with the case against the former minister and sends Salvini to trial.

January 8, 2021, there is a first preliminary trial hearing before Palermo preliminary investigative judge Lorenzo Jannelli.

March 20, 2021, the prosecution asks the preliminary investigative judge to indict Salvini.

On April 17, 2021, Salvini's defense team, including his lawyer Giulia Bongiorno, asked for the case against Salvini to be dismissed. Salvini was nonetheless ordered to stand trial and the first hearing was set for September 15 in the Palermo court.

Four migrants disembark from the Gregoretti | Photo: ANSA/ALESSANDRO DI MEO
Four migrants disembark from the Gregoretti | Photo: ANSA/ALESSANDRO DI MEO

The Gregoretti case

The Gregoretti, case is still pending in Catania. This case also dates back to summer 2019.

In August 2019, following a report, the Siracusa prosecutor's office opened a case into delays in the disembarking at the Augusta port of 131 migrants for four days, July 27-31, 2019, from the Gregoretti ship. The case began investigating Salvini and sent the documents to Catania.

September 21, 2019, the Catania prosecutor's office asks for the shelving of the inquiry by the Catania ministers' court.

December 17, 2019, the court of ministers asks the Senate for the authorization to move forward against Salvini, with possible charges of "kidnapping and abuse of office."

February 12, 2020, the Senate, with 152 votes in favor and 76 against, grants the authorization to proceed with the case against Salvini.

October 3, 2020, sees the first preliminary investigative hearing in front of the Catania preliminary investigative judge Nunzio Sarpietro. The prosecutor's office asks for the case to be shelved. The preliminary investigative judge called as witness the then-prime minister Giuseppe Conte, former deputy prime minister Di Maio, Minister Luciana Lamorgese, former minister Danilo Toninelli, and ambassador Maurizio Massari.

March 10, 2021, the prosecution reiterated in court a request not to proceed. The plaintiffs asked for an indictment while the defense, with lawyer Giulia Bongiorno, asked for the case to be shelved. The preliminary investigative judge is expected to rule on the matter on May 14.

 

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