The leader of the Italian opposition League, former head of the Interior Ministry Matteo Salvini, appeared again on trial in Sicily on Saturday for the detention of migrants on a ship by the Spanish non-governmental organization Open Arms. As in any other trial, he faces 15 years in prison.

The preliminary hearing of the Palermo court in the fortified hall of the prison in Uchiardoni, where the mafia trials are taking place, relate to the events of August 2019, when Salvini, as Minister of the Interior for three weeks, did not allow an NGO ship with more than a hundred immigrants on board to the port of Lampedusa. Conditions were horrible in the heat.

At that time, by his decision, Italian ports were closed to ships carrying migrants rescued at sea. The impasse opened the court in Agrigento, ordering the ship to contact the port immediately and release the people on shore.

In a case similar to the immigration detention in the Italian coast guard unit Gregoretti in 2019, Salvini – the leader of the opposition and now a member of the Senate – was tried in Catania.

The first session was devoted to formal issues, including awarding the affected parties to seven migrants from the Open Arms ship, its captain, and the organization to which the unit belongs.

Salvini told reporters:

The Spanish ship Open Arms refused entry to Malta, a cruise to Spain despite two offers from local authorities and the Spanish ship, endangering the migrants’ health. Now there are two refugees in prison, and 44 of them have escaped, but the trial is pending against the minister who defended the rights and borders of his country without being killed or injured.

The trial in which the mafia trials took place

Then the leader of the right-wing League added:

I have a trial in the bunker where the mafia trials took place, judge it yourself.

His lawyer, Julia Bongiorno, argued in court that the ban on the Open Arms entry into the port was not an individual decision of Salvini, but a decision of the entire government. The trial has been postponed until January 14.

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mly / PAP