Deputy Premier and Infrastructure Minister Matteo Salvini said he risks 15 years in jail for “defending Italy”. A hearing was held on Friday in his trail regarding the Open Arms NGO-run rescue ship.
Salvini is accused of ‘abducting’ 147 rescued migrants on board a ship operated by Spanish NGO Open Arms as part of his closed-ports policy in August 2019. At the time, he was interior minister in the first of two governments led by ex-premier Giuseppe Conte.
The Open Arms spent almost three weeks at sea after Salvini refused to give permission for it to dock on the island of Lampedusa.
“Today I am in Palermo for the umpteenth time, in the bunker hall of the Ucciardone prison, famous for the max-trial against the mafia, for the Open Arms trial,” Salvini said on Facebook.
“I risk 15 years in jail for having defended Italy and its borders, saving lives and making the law be respected”.
Politicians called as witnesses
Conte, now the leader of the opposition 5-Star Movement (M5S), former interior minister Luciana Lamorgese and former foreign minister Luigi Di Maio were called as witnesses in the trial on Friday.
Di Maio said “everything that was done in that period (by Salvini) was to obtain popularity”. The Open Arms stand-off took place shortly before League leader Salvini pulled the plug on the first Conte government.
Conte also said that, during the period of the stand-off, he “called on Minister Salvini to let the minors on board the Open Arms to disembark. In my opinion, it was a question that needed resolving aside from everything else,” he added. “I tried to exercise moral suasion on the issue because it seemed to me that the decision to keep them on board had no judicial basis”.
Last year, Salvini was cleared in a similar case regarding rescued migrants on the Gregoretti coast guard ship in July 2019.