Italian senators start debate on whether Salvini should go to trial
January 30 2019 01:20 PM
Matteo Salvini
Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini gestures as he attends a news conference in Rome, Italy, January 14.

dpa/Rome

An Italian Senate committee was starting a debate on Wednesday on the lifting of parliamentary immunity for Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has been charged with "kidnapping" migrants on a rescue boat.
The charge stems from Salvini's decision in August to delay for nearly a week, despite critical conditions on board, the disembarking of more than 150 migrants who were rescued and taken to a Sicily port by the Diciotti, an Italian coastguard vessel.
A special court has ruled that Salvini should face a trial over his conduct, risking a jail term of 3 to 15 years, but it will not happen unless the Senate - first at committee level, then in an assembly vote - authorizes it.
The Senate committee has 30 days to examine the case, before recommending a vote to the full house. The outcome of the procedure is uncertain. Salvini, who leads the far-right League, initially said he did not want immunity and was ready to defend his actions in court, but changed tack on Tuesday. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and other members of the government are standing by him. However, Salvini's government coalition ally, the Five Star Movement, is split.
As an anti-establishment party, it is usually opposed to politicians' privileges like parliamentary immunity, but a vote against Salvini could destabilize the government. In August, the migrants were eventually let off after the Italian Catholic Church, Albania and Ireland agreed to share the burden of taking them in. However, the transfers to Albania have never happened.



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