Trial of former Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini begins in Palermo | News from Germany about Europe | DW

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The trial against the former Italian Interior Minister, head of the right-wing Liga party, Matteo Salvini, accused of illegally holding refugees in the summer of 2019 and abuse of office, began on Saturday, October 23, in Palermo.

The defendant used the beginning of the hearings to attack left-wing politicians by posting a photo from the courtroom on Twitter and captioning the following: “The trial that the leftists and supporters of illegal immigration want is starting: what will it cost Italian citizens?”

The defendant justifies his actions

Among those to testify in court are former Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese. Hollywood star Richard Gere will also act as a witness. The Spanish non-governmental organization Open Arms included the actor on the witness list because he visited her rescue ship with 147 migrants rescued at sea, which Salvini did not allow for six days in August 2019 to enter Italian ports to disembark refugees all this time in appalling unsanitary conditions. Gere called to support the rescuers.

Salvini justified his actions by the fact that, according to him, with his restrictive policy of “closed ports” he wanted to protect Italy from the onslaught of illegal migrants. Last year, the Italian Senate removed Salvini’s parliamentary immunity, which opened the way for legal proceedings.

The founder and head of the Spanish humanitarian organization Open Arms, Oscar Camps, denied Salvini’s accusations that the trial was politically motivated. “Rescuing people at sea is not a crime, it is the duty of not only the captains of any ship, but also of any state,” he told reporters on Saturday.

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Matteo Salvini faces up to 15 years in prison and a ban on political activity. The next hearing is scheduled for December 17th.

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