Trial against Italian Salvini opens for stranded migrant boat

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MILAN (AP) – Former right-wing Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini was tried on Saturday on kidnapping charges for refusing in 2019 to allow a Spanish migrant rescue ship to dock in Sicily, keeping people in seaside for days.

This is the first trial to take place against Salvini for his actions preventing migrant landings while he was Interior Minister from 2018-2019 in a difficult coalition between the 5-star populist movement and his right-wing League.

Salvini was present for the opening day of the trial in Palermo, Sicily, which was to deal mainly with procedural requests. He insisted he was fulfilling his duty by denying entry to the Open Arms rescue ship and the 147 people he had rescued in the Mediterranean off Libya.

Salvini has taken a hard line on migrant arrivals, blocking ships and pushing Europe to ease some of the burden on Italy.

Prosecutors charge Salvini with dereliction of duty and kidnapping for refusing to allow the ship to enter the port for days in August 2019. During the nearly three-week standoff, some migrants threw themselves by. overboard in desperation and the captain pleaded for a safe and close port. Some migrants were taken ashore for humanitarian or health reasons, while the remaining 83 were eventually allowed to disembark at Lampedusa.

“We are waiting for justice for the unnecessary suffering that everyone has suffered during these 20 days,” said the head of the Spanish NGO Open Arms, Oscar Camps.

A court in Catania, Sicily, ruled earlier this year not to try Salvini in a similar case, for keeping 116 migrants on an Italian coastguard ship at sea for five days, also in 2019.

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