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Italy’s Salvini to face trial over blocking migrant ship

Leader of Italy's far-right League (Lega) party Matteo Salvini during a campaign rally on January 18, 2020, in Maranello, a week ahead of Emilia-Romagna's regional vote. (Andreas SOLARO/AFP)
Leader of Italy's far-right League (Lega) party Matteo Salvini during a campaign rally on January 18, 2020, in Maranello, a week ahead of Emilia-Romagna's regional vote. (Andreas SOLARO/AFP)

An Italian court rules that far-right leader Matteo Salvini will face charges of kidnapping and abuse of office for blocking a migrant ship from disembarking in August 2019.

His trial was scheduled for September 15, a tribunal in the Sicilian city of Palermo says.

Salvini, head of the League party and interior minister at the time, is charged with barring migrants from landing on the island of Lampedusa after they were rescued at sea by the Spanish NGO Open Arms.

For six days, he refused to allow a ship carrying 147 mainly African migrants to land, as conditions worsened on board.

All minors and some suffering health problems were allowed to disembark.

Typically combative, Salvini tweets that “defending the country is every citizen’s sacred duty”.

“That is what I will be judged for, for having defended my country? I will appear with my head held high,” he says.

Salvini, who was in the court Saturday and who risks up to 15 years in prison, calls it “more of a political than a judicial decision.”

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