Salvini appears before Sicilian court over migrant policies

The court must decide whether Italy's ex interior minister will go on trial

Former Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini

A court in the Sicilian city of Catania has scheduled a second hearing for Saturday morning in a case against the former Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. The head of the right-wing League party has agreed to attend, after which he wants to appear before the press.

As dpa reminds, the preliminary hearing for a possible trial relates to Salvini's tough anti-migration policy during his time as a minister in 2019. The investigators accuse the opposition leader of depriving migrants of their liberty and abuse of office because he made them stay at sea for long periods aboard ship.

Originally, the court had invited Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to attend on Saturday. According to the ANSA news agency, the prime minister asked at short notice for an appointment with the judge near him in Rome. It was not initially known on which day Conte should testify.

According to the Lega, two other former members of the government were also summoned for Saturday - the politicians Danilo Toninelli and Elisabetta Trenta from the Five-Star Movement (M5S).

The court must decide whether there Salvini will go on trial. The 47-year-old denies committing any crime. He argues that he acted on behalf of the citizens of Italy and in cooperation with the Conte government at the time.

Specifically, at the end of July 2019, Salvini had around 130 migrants stay on the Gregoretti. The coastguard ship was only allowed to enter port after other countries had agreed to take in the people on board. The first preliminary hearing in Catania took place in early October.

A first preliminary hearing in a similar case was also planned for Saturday in another city in Sicily.

The blockade of a ship belonging to the Spanish migrant rescue organization Open Arms is to be heard before the court in Palermo. As minister of the interior, Salvini blocked the Open Arms at sea for around three weeks in the summer of 2019.

A spokesman for Salvini announced on Friday that the opposition chief would not go to Palermo.

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