The Italian Senate has voted to strip populist Senator Matteo Salvini of parliamentary immunity, which could see the League leader face trial for “kidnapping” illegal migrants.
The vote was related to an incident that took place in August 2019, when Salvini was serving as Interior Minister and refused to let 164 migrants disembark from a migrant transport vessel belonging to the Spanish NGO Open Arms.
Senators voted 149 to 141 to strip Salvini of his parliamentary immunity. If Sicilian prosecutors put the League leader on trial and he is found guilty of the charges, he could face up to 15 years in prison, Il Giornale reports.
“I am proud to have defended Italy: I would do it again, and I will do it again, because this July alone the landings are six times those of the same period a year ago, when the League was in government,” Salvini said earlier this week.
Pollster: Salvini Trial Could Boost His Polling Numbers https://t.co/Ex9s1QaKBl
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) January 23, 2020
“I go on, with my head held high and with a clear conscience, because I have done my duty with determination and common sense. I am not afraid, I will not be intimidated, and they will not silence me: I know that for all the parliamentarians, sooner or later, the judgment of the voters will come,” he added.
While serving as Interior Minister, Salvini pursued a policy to shut all ports to migrant transport NGOs. Italian prosecutors and German authorities had accused many of the organisations of working with people smugglers in North Africa.
An internal report from the German Joint Analysis and Strategy Centre for Illegal Migration (Gasim) stated: “In the presence of NGO ships, concerted departures from Libya were noted. According to refugees and migrants, smugglers use the tracking function on various websites to determine the location of NGO ships and contacted them in individual cases using a satellite phone.”
Plurality of Italians Oppose Putting Salvini on Trial for Stopping Migrant Boats https://t.co/Y5Oa3dS5gD
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) February 15, 2020
The Senate vote is the second time Salvini has been stripped of his parliamentary immunity this year. A previous case involved a similar incident that saw Salvini refuse to allow migrants aboard a coast guard vessel to disembark on Italians oil.
A poll taken in February revealed that a plurality of Italians thought the League leader should not be put on trial at all and that it was wrong for the Senate to strip his parliamentary immunity.
Italian pollster Alessandra Ghisleri, meanwhile, suggested that a trial could boost Salvini’s national polling numbers, arguing that the attacks could turn Salvini into a perceived victim.