Rome, Oct 3 (efe-epa).- The leader of Italy’s far-right League party Matteo Salvini is appearing on Saturday before judges in Catania for a preliminary hearing in a trial for kidnapping charges.
The case relates to when Salvini refused to let migrants disembark from a coast guard vessel for five days as part of his “closed port” policy, one of the first changes he enacted when he became interior minister in June 2018.
The policy led to several stand-offs with migrant rescue vessels.
The kidnapping trial being heard at the Sicilian court on Saturday specifically addresses the incident when the Gregoretti coast guard vessel was forced to remain offshore with around 130 migrants onboard between 27-31 July 2019.
Ahead of the legal procedure, Salvini organized a meeting with like-minded political parties in Sicily.
Before appearing in court, he had a coffee with Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the right-wing Brothers of Italy party, and Antonio Tajani, from the center-right Forza Italia.
“We are living through a moment in which democracy has been suspended. My trial is a violation of the constitution. I never thought I’d be going to court, but I am not ashamed,” Salvini told supporters in the meeting at the port in Catania.
Meloni said: “He is our solid ally. But also, and most of all, we are defending something sacrosanct: a minister who does what the majority of Italians asked him to do. He cannot be judged for that.”
Catanians woke up Saturday to security measures in the city as Salvini’s supporters gathered to protest the trial.
Salvini said he would decide last minute whether he would give testimony or not.