Rome, March 21 (IANS/AKI) Over half of Italy’s upper house of parliament voted on Wednesday against sending hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini to trial in the case of 177 migrants he detained for 10 days on a coastguard ship in August, Senate immunity panel chairman Maurizio Gasparri announced soon after voting began.
Before the vote Wednesday by the Senate on whether he should face prosecution in the case, Salvini defended his refusal to allow migrants ashore.
Referring to the migrants who were detained on the Umberto Diciotti coastguard vessel until other states agreed to take them in, Salvini described the closure of Italy’s ports to migrants as “an exceptionally successful policy”.
Migrant landings in Italy had plunged “as is plain to see” since the closure of its ports to rescued boat migrants in early June when the populist government took office, he said.
As the voting continued, Gasparri said, “A total of 232 votes (against prosecuting Salvini) have already been case, meaning the quorum has been amply exceeded and my resolution on blocking the request (from a Sicilian special court) has therefore passed – as can be seen on the voting screens.”
Voting in the 321-member Senate was due continue until all votes were in, and the final result would only be announced at that time, said Gasparri, stating that he was “satisfied”.
The Senate immunity committee in February overwhelmingly rejected a request from Catania’s Court of Ministers for Salvini to face trial on charges including kidnapping over the rescued migrants who were stranded on the Diciotti until other states agreed to take them in.
The committee approved Gasparri’s resolution shielding Salvini by 16 votes in favour and four against. Salvini’s ruling League party, its conservative coalition partners and the grassroots 5 Star Movement – the League’s partner in the coalition government – voted for the resolution, while those from the centre-left Democratic Party opposed it.
In his resolution, Gasparri argued that Salvini had acted “to safeguard the pre-eminent public interest by exercising the function of government”.
The charges pressed against Salvini in the case carry a prison term of up to 15 years.