PALERMO, Italy, October 23 (Reuters) – Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing Italian League party, said a trial in which he faced kidnapping charges for refusing to let a migrant ship dock in the country in 2019 was not serious as an actor Richard Gere was admitted to testify.
Salvini, who was then Italian interior minister, appeared on Saturday at the second hearing of a trial in the Sicilian capital Palermo, where the court approved a list of witnesses.
Witnesses include former Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, other top Italian politicians and Hollywood actor Richard Gere, who was in Italy at the time and joined Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms – which managed the rescue ship – to deliver food to people on board. .
“Now you tell me how serious is a trial where Richard Gere comes from Hollywood to testify how bad I am,” Salvini said.
Proactiva Open Arms told the court Gere could report directly on conditions aboard the ship, which was stranded off the Italian island of Lampedusa for 19 days before prosecutors ordered the evacuation of people on board . Read more
It is not clear whether Gere will appear in person to testify at the trial.
Salvini, who built much of his political fortune on an anti-immigration campaign, said he had simply done his duty as minister.
“Defending the borders, the security, the honor and the dignity of a country is not only the duty of a minister but the duty of all”, he declared. “Being tried for doing my duty is surreal,” he said.
“A Spanish boat refusing to go to Spain is committing an abuse,” he added. “If Spain gives its flag to boats that it cannot control, then there is a problem.”
Salvini faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted after a lengthy three-stage legal process.
A final conviction could ban him from any future government office.
The court has set a new hearing for December 17.
Writing by Giulio Piovaccari; Editing by Christina Fincher
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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