ROME (AP) — An Italian prosecutor on Saturday told a court in Sicily that there’s no reason to order right-wing leader Matteo Salvini to stand trial for alleged kidnapping for his role in keeping rescued migrants aboard a coast guard ship for days in the summer of 2019.
Prosecutor Andrea Bonomo recommended at a preliminary hearing in Catania that Salvini was carrying out government policy when he kept 116 migrants aboard the Italian coast guard vessel Gregoretti off the coast of Sicily for five days.
At the time, Salvini was Italy’s interior minister in a government headed by Premier Giuseppe Conte. He was adamant that other European Union nations must accept migrants who are brought to Italian shores after being rescued from human traffickers’ unseaworthy boats in the Mediterranean Sea and not leave Italy to deal with them alone.
While Italian authorities pondered where the migrants should disembark, the Gregoretti 116 people aboard who had been transferred from two vessels that had rescued them — a fishing boat and an Italian customs police boat. Earlier, 15 minors from the boat had been allowed to come ashore.
Eventually the standoff over the Gregoretti ended when magistrates said it could dock at Augusta, Sicily, and let the passengers off.
Salvini, a senator who leads the anti-migrant League party, has long maintained that he was simply carrying out government policy when he refused to allow disembarking from the Gregoretti.
Bonomo was quoted by the Italian news agency LaPresse as saying the court, which must decide whether to indict Salvini, isn’t called to decide if “lengthening the stay of the migrants is morally acceptable” because the court isn’t supposed to render a “political judgment.”
“All the government shared the idea” that other European nations were also responsible “because those (migrants) who arrive in Italy arrive in Europe,” Bonomo was quoted as saying.
Bonomo also argued that the safety of the migrants aboard the coast guard vessel was assured.
Later that summer, Salvini pulled his support for the government but Conte stayed in power by forming another coalition without the League.
A decision by a judge on whether a trial for Salvini is warranted is expected in mid-May.
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