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Sea Watch 3. Screenshot from BBC video; Matteo Salvini. FWM
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Salvini furious at release of law-breaking Sea Watch 3 captain

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on Wednesday expressed great anger after Sea-Watch 3 skipper Carola Rackete was released from house arrest late on Tuesday.

Published: July 4, 2019, 9:44 am

    “It’s a disgraceful sentence”, said Salvini. “Her release made me very angry. It was an incredible choice with incredible explanations because in this case the lives of several police who were doing their duty were put at risk”.

    “We will send (Rackete) back to Germany,” said Salvini. He is the architect Italy’s closed ports policy against NGO run migrant human trafficking.

    Rackete, 30, has been found not to have “acted illegally” by forcing a port entry ban and ramming a police boat before landing 40 illegal migrants, picked up off Libya 17 days previously, at Lampedusa on Saturday.

    German NGO Sea Watch was barred from a Wednesday hearing of the House Constitutional Affairs and Justice committee, after a protest from Salvini’s ruling anti-migrant League party.

    In solidarity with Sea Watch, the NGOs Tavolo Asilo, Doctors Without Borders, Open Arms, Mediterranea Saving Humans and Antigone said they would now boycott the hearing.

    Salvini is stoking a climate of hate against the judiciary after slamming the decision of Agrigento preliminary investigations judge (GIP) Alessandra Vella to release Rackete from house arrest for ramming a police boat, magistrates union ANM said on Wednesday.

    The ANM said Salvini’s allegation that Vella’s decision was political had been followed by a stream of social media comments denigrating the magistrate.

    It further noted that this was not the first time that Salvini had accused the judiciary of political bias. “Once again, contemptuous comments against a judicial decision, decoupled from all references to its technical and juridical content, risk fuelling a climate of hatred and opposition,” the ANM said.

    It said this was shown by the “numerous posts containing insults and threats towards the Agrigento GIP published in the last few hours”.

    The ANM also warned of a prospective justice reform requiring magistrates to toe a pro-government line. Salvini responded to the comments by referring to a judicial corruption and cronyism probe: “I don’t come into other people’s houses but with what we are reading about the sharing out of posts and
    prosecutors by some magistrates I think they are the last ones who can give moral lessons to anyone.

    “Hearing that Salvini is this country’s problem seems really crazy to me”. He went on: “It’s a disgraceful sentence.

    “Her release made me very angry. It was not a credible choice with no credible explanations because in this case the lives of several police who were doing their duty were put at risk.

    “So the life of a tax policeman is worth less than that of a clandestine migrant. It’s a great responsibility that this judge has taken. In my view it’s madness. It’s not the independence of the judiciary, but madness”.

    The German Federal Government has meanwhile failed to renew the mandate for the “refugee mission” Sophia in the Mediterranean. “The German staff deployed in the Operations Headquarters Rome will therefore cease its work on June 30, 2019,” the editorial network Germany reported, quoting from a letter from the commander of the Einsatzwehr Command of the Bundeswehr, Erich Pfepper.

    The mission was launched in 2015 and was intended to tackle tugs off the Libyan coast. The rescue of migrants from distress was not the primary aim of the mission, but keeping the international law of the sea.

    Since Italy’s Interior Minister had tightened his country’s immigration policy, German naval ships had been used only outside the migrant routes. After the decision of the Federal Government, last soldiers will be withdrawn.

    In France, government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiyaye also commented on the Sea Watch 3 case on Tuesday. Italy has not been “up to standard” in receiving migrants, she said.

    Salvini snapped back at the criticism. He wanted to know if his “conduct on immigration was unacceptable? The French government should stop insults and open its ports, the Italians have already received (and spent) too much. The next migrant boats? Destination Marseilles”.

    An Italian prosecutor had said on Monday she had deliberately rammed the Finance Guard boat and was not exonerated by a supposed “state of necessity” deriving from the alleged desperation of the migrants.

    On another issue, League party leader Salvini also noted on Wednesday that the election of David Sassoli as president of the European Parliament was not in line with democracy. “I hope he’s balanced even though Sassoli spoke of a health cordon against the League and the populists, which doesn’t exactly seem to be the most democratic approach for a president”.

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