Italian Nationalist Matteo Salvini Should Not Face Kidnapping Charges for Keeping Migrants on Ship, Judge Rules

Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini delivers a press conference holding a rosary after the announcement of initial results during the election-night event for European parliamentary elections on May 26, 2019, in the Lega headquarters in northern Milan. – Matteo Salvini’s anti-migrant League party won the most votes in Sunday’s European elections in Italy with 27-31 percent, marking a historic success for the far-right, exit polls showed. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

An Italian judge has ruled that Matteo Salvini should not be tried for kidnapping after he refused to let migrants disembark from a ship almost two years ago.

Salvini, the populist leader of the right-wing party Lega Nord (Northern League), had been serving as Italy’s Minister of the Interior and Deputy Prime Minister when he forced 131 migrants to remain on a coast guard vessel in July 2019. The vessel remained docked in Sicily for six days while members of the European Union (EU) were negotiating a plan to redistribute the migrants.

Prosecutors in the city of Catania had been working to keep Salvini from facing trial over kidnapping charges, with a Catania judge ultimately taking their side in his recent ruling. Salvini, however, will still be tried in the city of Palermo for the same incident and over the same charges. That trial will begin on September 15.

As Big League Politics noted last August, the Italian Senate removed Salvini’s parliamentary immunity by a 149-141 vote and thereby opened the door for prosecutors to charge him with kidnapping. If convicted in Palermo, Salvini could face up to 15 years in prison and be permanently forbidden from government office.

Following the Catania judge’s ruling, the Italian nationalist thanked his supporters for standing by him in a Friday morning tweet: