Published: Fri, February 14, 2020

Defiant Matteo Salvini says he'll bar migrants from Italy again

Defiant Matteo Salvini says he'll bar migrants from Italy again

Italy's far-right League leader Matteo Salvini has lost his parliamentary immunity and will be standing trial over "migrant kidnapping" charges, facing up to 15 years in prison.

That committee voted in January to strip the anti-immigrant head of the Lega party of his parliamentary immunity, and now the final decision rests with the Senate.

Salvini has proudly defended his decision, and his overall stance on immigration as interior minister.

After the tally was announced, Salvini compared himself to US President Donald Trump, who was impeached in December and accused opponents of undermining his electoral success through the courts.

"I swore on the Constitution, which says that defending the nation is every citizen's duty. He has a few more billions and a few more years, but it's a bad little habit of the left, going around in the world, to try to win by judicial means", he wrote on Twitter.

During his 14-month stint as interior minister, Salvini sought to strike deals with a number of African countries on returning migrants.

One of Salvini's first moves since he took office as interior minister in June 2018 was to declare Italian ports closed to rescue ships engaged in saving migrants fleeing Libya.

Opinion surveys have pegged Salvini as one of Italy's most popular leaders.

The League was part of the governing coalition past year, but ended up in the opposition benches after Salvini triggered a government crisis last August, which led to the formation of a new coalition between the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the Democratic Party (PD).

Calling the case politically motivated, Salvini said, "I can't take being called a criminal anymore, there's a limit to everything", Ansa news agency reported. He professed confidence in the "neutrality" of magistrates "because I believe that what I have done was in the interest of the Italian people".

An even more dramatic case will come before the Senate's immunity commission later this month. There were subsequently 25 standoffs between rescue vessels and Italian authorities, some of which became the focus of investigations as prosecutors accused Salvini of illegal detention of migrants.

Viti Crimi, interim leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), Salvini's former government partner, said "the League leader has been living in a confused state for months".

Eventually, the prosecutors shelved the case.

Salvini insists the decision had the backing of the government and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. But the gamble backfired, at least in the short run, with his party failing to pull off victory.

League senators abstained from the vote, walking out of the Senate.

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