ROME (Reuters) – An Italian prosecutor officially on Saturday called on far-right League leader Matteo Salvini to stand trial for kidnapping over his decision to prevent more than 100 migrants from landing in the country in 2019.
Salvini’s decision, made while he was interior minister, left migrants stranded at sea until prosecutors ordered the seizure of the ship and the evacuation of those on board.
Salvini defended his actions on Saturday and said he was not worried about the prosecutor’s appeal that was part of a long-running legal process – the Italian Senate authorized the court to proceed with a kidnapping investigation last year.
“I am proud to have worked to protect my country, respect the law, wake up Europe and save lives. If this causes me trouble and suffering, I will gladly accept it, “Salvini wrote on Facebook.
During his 14 months as interior minister, Salvini stopped several ships from docking in Italy in an attempt to stop the flow of migrants. He regularly accuses migrant rescue charities of effectively encouraging people smuggling.
He could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted at the end of a tortuous three-stage trial. Confidence that could definitely deter him from government office.
Prosecutors asked for the charges at a preliminary hearing in Sicily’s capital, Palermo. The final decision on whether to proceed remains with the senior judge.
Open Arms, the charity that operates the migrant rescue ship at the heart of the case, said it supported the prosecution’s plea.
“Violating the rights of vulnerable people is a crime in any democratic country,” he wrote on Twitter.
Reporting by Angelo Amante; Edited by Andrew Heavens