Blocked rescue ship: Salvini in court in the “Open Arms” case

Status: 23.10.2021 1:22 p.m.

In the case of the refugee rescue ship “Open Arms” blocked in 2019, Italy’s former interior minister Salvini is on trial. The Lega boss is accused of abuse of office and deprivation of liberty. He faces up to 15 years imprisonment.

In Palermo, Sicily, the hearing against Italy’s former interior minister Matteo Salvini has started because of the blockade of the rescue ship “Open Arms”. The head of the right-wing Lega is accused of preventing the ship of the Spanish aid organization from entering a port in August 2019 during his time as minister.

The public prosecutor’s office accuses the 48-year-old of deprivation of liberty and abuse of office. If convicted, he could face 15 years in prison.

Conte and Di Maio are also listed as witnesses

Salvini was Interior Minister in the first cabinet of the government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the predecessor of the current Prime Minister Mario Draghi, from June 2018 to September 2019. Salvini was known for a tough anti-migration line.

The hearing is probably primarily about procedural issues. The court decided to allow the then Prime Minister Conte, the government advisor and current Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and the then Labor and Social Affairs Minister Luigi Di Maio as witnesses, as the news agencies Ansa and Adnkronos reported. In addition, the US actor Richard Gere, who was temporarily on board the ship, was allowed to testify.

More than 160 rescued people on board

According to its own statements, the “Open Arms” rescued more than 160 people in the Mediterranean from distress on their 65th mission in August 2019. The first deployment was on August 1st, and two more followed. The authorities repeatedly took people off board for medical reasons.

From around mid-August the ship was in front of Lampedusa, but was not allowed to dock there – even on Salvini’s instructions. The sanitary situation and tension on board came to a head. Desperate people repeatedly jumped into the water and tried to swim on land. In the end, after an inspection of the ship, the public prosecutor arranged for the “Open Arms” to be confiscated, which meant that they could moor with the remaining migrants.

A tweet from the courtroom

Salvini defends himself by saying that the decision was not made by him alone, but by the government. He justified his actions by saying that he defended Italy in this way. On Twitter today he published a photo from the courtroom and wrote: “The trial wanted by the left and the supporters of illegal immigration begins: What will it cost the Italian citizens?”

The founder and director of the Spanish aid organization “Open Arms”, Oscar Camps, denied Salvini’s allegations that the process was politically motivated. “Saving people is not a crime, it is a duty – not just for the captains, but for the entire state,” he told journalists.

The Italian Senate lifted Salvini’s parliamentary immunity last year, clearing the way for the trial. The process started on September 15th. As expected at the time, the negotiation was postponed to this Saturday at the beginning.

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