Rome, Feb 20 (IANS/AKI) After a committee of Italy’s Senate on Tuesday blocked a request for hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini to stand trial over 177 migrants he left stranded off Sicily on a rescue ship for ten days last August, the full upper house of parliament will be called to vote on the issue within 60 days.
Members of the Senate’s parliamentary immunity committee backed a resolution by its chairman, Maurizio Gasparri, which asked it to reject a request by a special court in Sicily to send Salvini to trial for kidnapping and other crimes in the so-called ‘Diciotti’ case.
Committee members approved Gasparri’s resolution by 16 votes in favour and four against. Salvini’s ruling League party, its conservative allies, 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.
The vote by Senators is now expected to be a formality as the 5 Star Movement has swung behind Salvini following an online vote on Monday in which 59 percent of party members opposed his prosecution over the Diciotti incident.
The Umberto Diciotti is the name of the Italian coastguard ship that picked up the 177 migrants, who Salvini refused to allow ashore in Catania until other states agreed to take them in.
Italy has been embroiled in a number of international standoffs involving migrants saved in the Mediterreanean since Salvini controversially closed the country’s ports to rescue ships when he took office in June last year.