Rome, Jul 30 (efe-epa).- Italian senators on Thursday voted to strip parliamentary immunity from far-right leader Matteo Salvini, paving the way for him to stand trial for allegations of illegally preventing migrants from disembarking from a rescue ship last year.
Senators voted 149 to 141 in favor of the move.
The former interior minister and deputy prime minister, who leads the League Party, has been accused by prosecutors in the Sicilian city of Palermo of illegally refusing to let some 150 migrants disembark on Italian soil from Spanish NGO boat Open Arms last year.
In February, the Senate voted to lift the firebrand politician’s immunity for a similar case involving the Italian migrant boat Gregoretti, the hearing for which has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the potential charges wielding a prison sentence of up to 15 years, Salvini has relished the proceedings so far.
He told the Senate Thursday: “I give thanks to those sending me to trial because it is a gift to me. I go with my head held high.”
He received a round of applause from his allies in the chamber.
The vote from senators does not mean Salvini will go straight to judicial proceedings, a decision that will depend on the court, which could either give the green light or archive the case.
Salvini refused to grant Open Arms permission to dock in Italian territory in August last year. The boat remained at sea for several weeks until a number of European Union countries agreed to step in and take in some of the migrants.
On 20 August, the remaining 83 migrants were allowed to leave the ship, which docked at the island of Lampedusa, ending the stand-off.
Salvini’s League party was at the time in a coalition government with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.
The far-right party is now in the opposition, with the Five Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party in power.
The current Italian prime minister Guiseppe Conte was also the head of the government at the time of the stand-off.
Salvini insists Conte had backed his immigration policies during his time as the influential interior minister.
Five Star Movement senator Lucia Evangelista on Thursday said Conte had urged Salvini to allow vulnerable people and minors on board Open Arms to disembark. EFE