The Malta Independent 3 December 2021, Friday

Joseph Muscat on witness list in Salvini trial over 2019 migrant ship

Sunday, 24 October 2021, 07:30 Last update: about 2 months ago

Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is on the list of witnesses in the trial against former Italian Home Minister Matteo Salvini, which started in Italy on Saturday, Italian media report.

Matteo Salvini is charged with kidnapping for refusing in 2019 to allow a Spanish migrant rescue ship to dock in Sicily, keeping the people on board at sea for days.

It is the first trial to go ahead against Salvini for his actions preventing migrant landings while he served as interior minister from 2018-2019 in an uneasy coalition between the populist 5-Star Movement and his right-wing League.

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Italian media report that Muscat is one of 26 witnesses expected to testify at the trial. Muscat was Malta Prime Minister at the time.

Other witnesses include former Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, former Italian deputy PM Luigi Di Maio and other Italian ministers.

Among those summoned is American actor Richard Gere, who visited the migrants aboard the Open Arms after seeing their plight while on a family vacation in Italy.

It is not known when Muscat will testify. The trial’s next sitting is on 17 December.

Salvini was present for the opening day of the trial in Palermo, Sicily.

He has insisted he was fulfilling his duty by refusing entry to the Open Arms rescue ship, and the 147 people it had saved in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya.

Salvini took a hard line on migrant arrivals, blocking ships and pushing for Europe to take some of the burden off Italy.

Prosecutors accuse Salvini of dereliction of duty and kidnapping for refusing to allow the ship into port for days in August 2019. During the nearly three-week standoff, some migrants threw themselves overboard in desperation and the captain pleaded for a safe, nearby port. Some migrants were taken to land for humanitarian or health reasons, while the remaining 83 were eventually allowed to disembark in Lampedusa.

A court in Catania, Sicily, earlier this year decided not to try Salvini in a similar case, for keeping 116 migrants on board an Italian coast guard ship at sea for five days, also in 2019.

See reports in Italian here and here

 

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