Matteo Salvini will stand trial for refusing to allow stranded migrants to enter Italy, an outcome he sought as it could bring one of his favourite themes to the forefront of the nation’s political debate.
In a preliminary vote, the Rome-based Senate gave the go-ahead to a trial for Salvini, leader of the right-wing League party, after he blocked a ship carrying rescued migrants from docking in a Sicilian port last July. Prosecutors charge him with kidnapping.
The case, which may last years in Italy’s plodding court system, could undermine Salvini’s bid for power. Still, the League leader instructed lawmakers from his party not to oppose the trial, in order to allow him to defend his actions.
Salvini says he was applying government policy and waiting for other European Union countries to accept the 131 migrants on board Coast Guard vessel Gregoretti.
While Salvini has portrayed himself as a victim of politically motivated persecution in the case, a guilty verdict could prevent him from standing as the center-right bloc’s candidate for prime minister.