Monday, November 29

Richard Gere and Ada Colau will testify in the trial against Matteo Salvini for blocking the ‘Open Arms’ | International


Former Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, responds to journalists at the exit of the hearing held this Saturday in Palermo for the blockade of the 'Open Arms' in 2019.
Former Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, responds to journalists at the exit of the hearing held this Saturday in Palermo for the blockade of the ‘Open Arms’ in 2019.IGOR PETYX (EFE)

The leader of the far-right Liga, Matteo Salvini, sat on the dock this Saturday for his fierce immigration policy when he was Minister of the Interior and Vice President of the Italian Government, between June 2018 and September 2019. The politician, whose training now participates in the great government coalition led by Mario Draghi, is charged with preventing for almost two weeks in 2019 the disembarkation of a hundred migrants rescued by the humanitarian ship Open Arms of the Spanish NGO of the same name. The trial started with great anticipation in Sicily, in the bunker classroom of the Pagliarelli prison in Palermo.

In the first hearing, the judge has admitted that all the witnesses presented testify, both by the defense and by the prosecution and the Prosecutor’s Office. Among them, the former Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, and some of his ministers; the entire crew of the ship; American actor Richard Gere, who visited the ship while the ship waited in the middle of the sea for the assignment of a safe harbor; and the mayor of Barcelona, ​​Ada Colau. The statements will begin at the next hearing, which will be held on December 17.

Salvini, who if convicted faces prison sentences of up to 15 years for kidnapping people and omission of his duties, confirmed that he does not regret his decisions and pointed out that he only regrets taking time away from his children and Italians “who they pay for this political process ”. He also protested the admission of some witnesses. “For this process Richard Gere will come from Hollywood, imagine what process this is in which Richard Gere comes to talk about how bad I am,” he said at the exit of the audience. The defense has argued that with the actor’s statement the trial will become a “show.”

The facts tried date back to August 2019, when the Open Arms He spent about 20 days in the middle of the sea, the last week off the coast of the island of Lampedusa, with more than 150 rescued migrants on board, waiting to be assigned a safe port. Salvini, as Minister of the Interior, refused to allow the landing of the ship and lobbied for other European countries to commit to taking in the castaways. The situation on board became critical and some of the migrants jumped into the sea desperately trying to reach land. Finally, the intervention of the Agrigento Prosecutor’s Office forced the landing.

The founder of the NGO, Óscar Camps, has indicated from Palermo that “the time has come to give answers and seek responsibilities” on those long days. “I was on the ship for the last seven days and we suffered in an unforgettable way. And due to the unjust suffering for all these people, this is the first step on a long road to justice “, he pointed out, adding that this trial is against” those who go against the NGOs that rescue migrants at sea “and” not only a minister ”.

The defense proposed that the testimonies of the former European Commissioner for Migration, the Interior and Citizenship, Dīmītrīs Avramopoulos, and the former Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, be heard, rejected by the Prosecutor’s Office but accepted by the judge. It alleges that the decision to prevent the landing was shared by the entire Executive and not a personal initiative of Salvini and will try to show that there was no kidnapping because the Open Arms He had the possibility to go to both Malta and Spain.

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Matteo Salvini, in low political hours today, has already escaped a similar process in Catania, having blocked on that occasion an Italian military ship with a hundred migrants on board the same year. In this case the court decided to archive the case.

In the process of Open ArmsIn total, they must testify fifty witnesses, so the trial is expected to be long.

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