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Judiciary in a hurry to move against Salvini

It appears that the Italian judiciary is in a hurry to move against former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. The offices of the investigating magistrate of Catania have already received the official request of the prosecutor to set a preliminary hearing in the context of the proceeding against the Salvini "kidnapping" case.

Published: February 21, 2020, 7:24 am

    The proceedings against the ex-minister regarding the Gregoretti will soon be launched. The official request, filed in the secretariat of the judge for preliminary investigations, came only a week after the green light was granted by the Senate to continue the procedure against Salvini himself.

    On that occasion, in fact, the senators did not grant parliamentary immunity for the former minister and therefore the file concerning the Gregoretti case returned to Catania. From here, in December the court of ministers had started the request to the Senate to be able to proceed against the leader of the League.

    The request to fix the preliminary hearing for the League boss is the first step in the procedure restarted by the Catania prosecutor’s office after the vote of the senators on 12 February. As reported by the Agi agency, the president of the investigating magistrates of Catania, Nunzio Sarpietro, is now studying the file but still no date has been set.

    The Gregoretti case is not the only one that currently involves the ex-minister Salvini. On 26 February, in fact, the Senate will vote on a new request this time from the Palermo court of ministers and concerning the Open Arms case.

    In this matter too, Matteo Salvini has been accused of “kidnapping”. If the senators give the go-ahead again, the possibility will open for the former owner of the interior to face a new procedure. The disputed facts about the Open Arms date back to last August and, in particular, to the last days in which Salvini was a member of the government.

    Italy was not the port of safety (POS) in the case of the Open Arms migrant rescue ship Salvini has told the Senate immunity panel in his defence report on the case, seeking to avoid having his parliamentary immunity lifted to face trial.

    “The indication of the POS was up to Spain or Malta”, he said. Salvini said the commander of the ship deliberately ignored the POS indicated by Spain, wasting precious time with the sole aim of landing the migrants in Sicily, Salvini said.

    The former interior minister Matteo Salvini is accused of keeping at sea for days in “kidnapping” the migrants aboard.

    Salvini said the skipper had already done so in March 2018 and had been charged with private violence and favouring clandestine immigration.

    Salvini said “Italy did not have any competence or obligation with reference to all the rescues carried out by the Spanish ship Open Arms, which took place outside its area of pertinence. This is shown by the exchange of correspondence between Valletta and Madrid in the early days of August 2019.

    “It is surely the State whose flag the ship was flying that must indicate the POS in the case of operations carried out by NGO ships in autonomy”.

    The Open Arms case will be heard by the Senate immunity panel on February 27. The Senate voted in full session last week for Salvini to face trial in another migrant “kidnapping” case, regarding the Gregoretti coast guard ship.

    Salvini operated a closed ports policy for NGO migrant rescue ships during his term as interior minister from May 2018 to July 2019.

    The showdown between Sea Watch captain Carola Rackete of Germany and Salvini has meanwhile turned into a naked politicized judicial battle: Rackete allegedly did “not ram into a war ship” the judges ruled.

    In explaining its rejection of a plea to arrest her, the supreme Italian Court of Cassation on Thursday argued that she did her duty in landing rescued migrants at Lampedusa last summer.

    Rackete forced her way through a naval blockade ordered by former interior minister and League leader Matteo Salvini, ramming into a Navy vessel.

    The reasons that led the Supreme Court to reject the argument advanced by the Agrigento prosecutor’s office, were disclosed. It concerns the ramming carried out by Rackete, as captain of the ship of the German NGO Sea Watch, of a patrol boat of the Guardia di Finanza at the entrance to the port of Lampedusa.

    It was on 29 June 2019 when Rackete herself decided to physically force the blockade to enter the Lampedusa port of call. On board the ship there were some migrants recovered a few days earlier in the central Mediterranean.

    The Agrigento prosecutor’s office arrested the German girl who was then moved a few hours later to the Sicilian city for interrogation.

    “The international conventions on the matter of rescue at sea and even before the customary obligation of rescue at sea, is a rule of international law generally recognized and therefore directly applicable in the internal system, based on article 10 of the Constitution, all provisions well known by those who rescue at sea, but also by those who, by service, operate at sea by carrying out maritime police activities,” the text noted.

    According to the Cassation, there was a “dangerous situation” that justified the behavior of the captain of the ship of the NGO and, for this reason, the latter should not have been arrested. The danger stemmed in particular from the fact that migrants were not in a safe place.

    In this sense, the judges of the Court of Cassation recalled the Hamburg Convention, according to which “the obligation to provide aid does not end in the act of removing the shipwrecked from the danger of getting lost at sea, but involves the accessory and consequent obligation to land them in a safe place, and such cannot be qualified, a ship at sea which, in addition to being at the mercy of adverse weather events, does not allow respect for the fundamental rights of people”.

    The status of the patrol boat cannot be considered a warship either, the judges argued: “The means of the Guardia di Finanza are certainly military ships, but cannot be automatically also considered warships.”

    And this is because, as it is written in the Cassation ruling, “in order to be qualified as a warship, the unit of the Guardia di Finanza must also be commanded by a Navy officer serving the State and entered in the appropriate role of the officers or in an equivalent document, which in the case in question has not been demonstrated”.

    Matteo Salvini responded to the strange ruling: “If what I read is true, one can ram a ship of the Guardia di Finanza with five soldiers of the Guardia di Finanza on board. It is a very dangerous principle for Italy and for the Italians.”

    According to Salvini: “It is one thing is to help shipwrecked people at sea, which is a right or duty for anyone, another is to justify an act of war.”

    “If I, in Germany, rammed a German military ship, I think I would be rightly put in jail,” he concluded.

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    • LuciusAnnaeusSeneca

      The Salvini prosecution is likely to turn very ugly, and as it does, its political nature becomes all the more apparent. The aim is to have things well under way in the courts if and when a general election is held this year. And at any rate, once the process is under way, restrictions may be put on Salvini’s political activity. There are six regional races this year in Italy, and the PD and the left will be defending seats in four of them. If the PD and the rest of the center-left is thrown out of all of them, that would all but cripple the party. Even though these four (Tuscany, Marche, Campania, and Apulia) are easier targets for Lega and the center-right, Salvini’s presence and leadership has proven critical in regional races. Removing him from political activity could be a game-changer.

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