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Matteo Salvini. Photo: Matteo Salvini. Photo supplied

Italian Senate panel votes against Salvini’s ‘migrant kidnapping’ trial

Party activists from the League's coalition partners led by Luigi Di Maio have been invited to vote for or against the lifting of the parliamentary immunity of the Italian Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini.

Published: February 20, 2019, 8:35 am

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    Salvini is facing the Italian Court of Ministers for “kidnapping of persons”, in the context of the case of the Italian ship Diciotti that had taken on board 177 migrants in August 2018. For a trial to be opened, it requires the authorization of the majority of senators for the lifting of the parliamentary immunity of the Minister of the Interior.

    Magistrates in the Sicilian city of Catania had been requesteing authorization from parliament to proceed against the leader of the anti-migrant League in a standoff with the EU last August.

    Senators from the 5-Star Movement invited their members to vote on whether or not to accept the waiver of Matteo Salvini’s immunity on Monday. The vote took place on the “Rousseau” platform, the website used by the party to validate its projects or decisions by activists. The results were firm: Some 60 percent of the 52 400 voters among the registered on the platform said “no” to a lawsuit against Salvini reported RFI .

    Very satisfied, Di Maio, Deputy Prime Minister of Italy and Minister of Economic Development, Labour and Social Policies, said that voters have understood that “Salvini has acted in the interest of Italy and to uphold the principles of solidarity at the European level”.

    The Diciotti had to wait more than two weeks for landing permission, because Matteo Salvini had demanded a European agreement to distribute the migrants to different countries.

    The center-left opposition denounced the opacity of the “Rousseau” platform and described the vote as a “farce”.

    After the Senate’s immunity panel on Tuesday also voted against granting a request from criminal prosecutors to proceed with charges him, Salvini said the case should not be allowed as he was doing his job as minister.

    The Senate panel on Tuesday had the backing of 16 votes proposed by panel chair Maurizio Gasparri of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (FI) party, while six were against.

    While some M5S supporters expressed concern about backing immunity for Salvini, most MPs objected to his treatment in this case.

    Salvini said he was “not asking for favours or help from anyone” in the vote. “If, to defend the borders of my country, the safety of Italians, to defend the national interest, it brings me and will bring me other charges and other investigations, I’m very ready to face them,” Salvini said.

    Senators from the leftist opposition Democratic Party (PD) shouted “shame, honesty” at the M5S Senators after the vote, mimicking to the movement’s rallying cry. PD Senator Laura Garavini said “they used to shout ‘honesty’, now they’ve become lackeys”.

    M5S Senator Mario Michele Giarrusso responded that “my father and mother are at home regularly: others are under house arrest, and then they speak of honesty”, referring to the parents of former PD leader and ex-premier Matteo Renzi, placed under house arrest Monday night over alleged fraudulent bankruptcy and false invoices. Giarrusso made gestures of being a hand-cuffed at the PD Senators.

    Salvini said after the vote he would have accepted “any response” from the panel. “I would have accepted any response, aware of the fact that what I’m doing and we’re doing we do so for the benefit of our country,” he said.

    “For me, first comes the defence of borders and the security of my people and so I worked calmly yesterday and I work calmly today,” he said. “We [the coalition government] are a team. In government there is a team, there are no individuals, so I say thanks for the confidence in the team”.

    But the immunity panel’s vote is not the final, as there will now have to be a vote in the floor of the upper house. M5S Senators however, have pledged to follow the lead of their members’ online vote. It therefore  appears to be a foregone conclusion in favour of Salvini.

    Salvini had said earlier: “I can guarantee that the government will not collapse. But I don’t fear the court of the people”.

    The League leader also said that “we’re all in the same boat” referring to Premier Gisueppe Conte, fellow Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio, the M5S leader, and Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, also of the M5S.

    According to Di Maio, the government would go ahead no matter what the result of the vote. “The government will go on. I have made a commitment to the Italian people and I intend to carry it out,” he said.

    Salvini has also threatened to take legal action if reports of a possible deal within the government over the Turin-Lyon TAV high-speed rail line and the Diciotti cases continue. “I’ll sue the next person who talks about that,” League leader Salvini said during a visit to the central city of Terni last week.

    Salvini says the project should go ahead but the M5S are opposed to it.
    Italy’s centre-left and centre-right opposition parties, meanwhile, have accused the M5S Senators of ducking their responsibilities by delegating their decision to the party base, and of betraying their movement’s founding principles.

    Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation meanwhile said on Tuesday that Salvini’s migrants-security decree, which clamped down on migrants’ stay permits, was not retroactive. It ruled that applications already filed will have to be examined according to the former norms on permits for humanitarian reasons.

    If there are the premises, it said, the permit that is issued will have the label “special cases”, as envisaged by the decree, and will last two years, after which the new regime will apply.

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