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Blue sea; Matteo Salvini. Photo FWM

Prosecutors launch new legal assault on Salvini

After the Diciotti case, another legal assault is being launched against Matteo Salvini. Salvini faced between three and five years in prison for having stopped illegal migrants from the vessel landing in Italy.

Published: September 22, 2019, 11:42 am

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    “I am not afraid, I will still defend the Italian borders,” Salvini said in response to the latest attack.

    “Saturday afternoon, at home with the kids doing homework and watching cartoons, they ring at the door and give you a sealed envelope that comes from the Catania prosecutor’s office …”

    Salvini described his surprise at the latest legal battle he will be facing. Thus the former chief of the Interior Ministry presented the new “letter” that was delivered to his home.

    According to the Catania Public Prosecutor, Salvini is under investigation for “kidnapping” the Gregoretti. The file was opened at the end of July by the Syracuse prosecutor’s office against unknown persons.

    The Coast Guard ship had remained for a few days in the harbor of Catania, carrying 121 of the 131 migrants rescued at sea. The commander of the ship was heard by the Public Prosecutor of Syracuse.

    Later, the documents were transferred from Syracuse to Catania for the crime of “kidnapping” with possible ministerial level responsibilities. So, in Catania, the prosecutor Andrea Bonomo has registered the file against a known person, that is, Matteo Salvini.

    The case of the Gregoretti is similar to that of the Diciotti vessel a year ago. The mooring of the Gregoretti Coast Guard patrol boat was stopped by Salvini who has never changed his mind on the subject.

    It has always been very clear and at the time he had declared: “I will not give any permission to disembark until Europe reaches the concrete commitment to welcome all immigrants on board of the ship.”

    The Gregoretti had taken on board 50 migrants who had been rescued by the fishing boat Accursio Giarratano and another 91 rescued by a patrol of the Guardia di Finanza. In the following days, a woman was sent to the port of Catania in her eighth month of pregnancy together with her family consisting of a husband and two small children.

    And in Augusta, at the NATO dock, 16 people who declared themselves minors (among the 15 and 17 years) were allowed to disembark. It was later discovered that most were not minors.

    Salvini remains unfazed however. “Defending my children, my country was and is part of my job and cultural baggage,” he said live on Facebook.

    “Should the process be required I am ready for everything and everyone. Meanwhile, in these hours the landings will continue. In September it has increased by 30 percent compared to last year over the same period.”

    He said not only Conte, but “Macron and Merkel are happy, Brussels is happy, but Sicily and the rest of Italy are not happy”. Salvini added: “The smugglers are happy that with the money they can buy themselves weapons and drugs. And [Secretary of the Democratic Party, Nicola] Zingaretti, [Prime Minister Giuseppe] Conte and the others are there to fornicate.”

    In the letter, the deputy public prosecutor of Catania announces the criminal proceedings registered against Salvini on September 7 for crimes committed in Augusta between 27 to 31 July, signalling 8 years in prison. But because it is a repeat offense, the former minister risks 15 years behind bars.

    In the Diciotti case, Sicilian prosecutors opened an investigation into the former Interior Minister for suspected “illegal confinement, illegal arrest and abuse of power”, only to recommend in November that the case be dropped.

    Later, however, a special tribunal in Catania overturned that recommendation, ruling that Salvini could indeed stand trial. The stand-off over the Diciotti ended only after the Catholic Church had brokered a deal with Ireland and Albania to take the migrants in.

    Meanwhile, in a BBC Hardtalk interview with Sea Watch skipper Rakete, the NGO’s own data on deaths at sea, highlighted that her position was untenable: Arrivals to Italy by sea fell by 84 percent compared to 2018 and 97 percent compared to 2017.

    Salvini with his strong position against migrant landings had therefore assured that thousands of people who would have attempted the crossing by putting themselves at risk, do not do it anymore. Only one migrant has died at sea in 2019. This is a fact that the “captain” could not refute.

    Rakete is under investigation for aiding illegal immigration and violating article 1099 of the navigation code for not obeying the order of an Italian national warship.

    On Friday Salvini said that the Italian president should be elected directly by the people. The president, who acts as the guardian of the Constitution and as the political system’s referee, is currently elected by parliament. “The PD (Democratic Party) have already taken the last three presidents for themselves,” Salvini said.

    “I think that, if not in 2022, then in 2029 the head of State could be elected directly by the citizens”. Salvini, whose party is current well ahead in the polls, said that he was confident that he would have the necessary votes in parliament in the future to carry out this Constitutional reform.

    He added that he does not think the current M5S-PD government will last until 2022, when President Sergio Mattarella’s successor will be elected. Salvini also said that when he next returns to government he will sell off a chunk of State broadcaster RAI.

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