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Italian Deputy PM Sues Bestselling Author After Social Media Feud Over Migration

© AP Photo / Luca BrunoMatteo Salvini gives his speech during the traditional League party rally in Pontida, northern Italy, Sunday, July 1, 2018
Matteo Salvini gives his speech during the traditional League party rally in Pontida, northern Italy, Sunday, July 1, 2018 - Sputnik International
The twitter battle between Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and author Roberto Saviano over immigration has gone out of control with the writer who is under police protection system for his anti-mafia works accusing high ranking official of ties with underground world.

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has stated that he has filed a defamation lawsuit against author Roberto Saviano, who repeatedly branded him "Minister of Mala Vita” (the minister of the “underworld,"one of the nicknames for the Mafia) as he criticized the official for his migration policy.

​I sued Saviano, as promised. I accept every criticism, but I do not allow anyone to say that I help the mafia, shit that I fight with all my strength, or to say that I am happy if a child dies. When it's too much, it's too much.

The writer stated, he hasn’t been officially noted about the suit, but expressed readiness to oppose the official in court, saying “Salvini will be called to tell the truth.”

This topped an earlier exchange of critical remarks and a recent social media feud between Saviano, who wrote a non-fiction bestseller "Gomorrah” on mafia in the region of Campania and the city of Naples, and the leader of the right-wing Lega over blocking ships with migrants, who’d been rescued the Mediterranean, from Italy.

READ MORE: Italy Vows to Block Foreign Navy Ships on Migrant Rescue Missions From Ports

Saviano posted a picture of a dead African woman and a child inthe sea, slamming Salvini.

​Minister of Mala Vita, talks about "lies and insults” speaking on the deaths at sea, but with what courage? Confess rather: how much pleasure does it give — some would say "as a father" — to see innocent children die at sea? @matteosalvinimi, Minister of Mala Vita, the hatred that you have sown will overwhelm you.

This prompted a fierce response from the minister, who posted “What to answer? A pat, which deserves a lawsuit at most.”  The writer challenged Salvini, claiming this was the “fifth lawsuit announced, with now no proceedings. Just talk.”

Saviano also questioned the official’s word choice and connected the threats to sue him with Salvini’s earlier demands to review the police protection system in Italy.

“What is this "pat"? Why use this mellifluous speech, with bad connotations, I would say, almost mafia? Is it, Mr Minister of Mala Vita, the equivalent of a "kiss in the mouth" [a cultural meme, suggesting the mafia marks somebody for death with a kiss]? Was it perhaps because of this that he wanted the escort to be taken from me?” Saviano meditated on Facebook.

Salvini had earlier explained that his policy to  review police protection, with a record number of people in Italy living with a police escort,   and didn’t target Saviano, who has lived under protection for years.

Earlier Saviano claimed that he had witnessed members of southern Italy's mafia families attending Salvini's rallies, and accused Salvini of turning blind eye to organized crime on the south, stirring up intolerance against immigrants, which Salvini strongly refuted.

Crackdown on Illegal Migration

Since the new government was formed in Italy in June, it has repeatedly expressed its wish that illegal immigrants who look to cross the Mediterranean and reach the Europe mainland, be taken back to North Africa, rather than allowed to enter the country. The position of the Italian government is that Libya is not as dangerous for the migrants as it once was.

Last month, Italy refused to take in immigrant rescue NGO vessels, sparking a diplomatic row in Europe. These included the infamous ship Aquarius, which had more than 600 people on board, which had to dock in Valencia, Spain. 

Over 650,000 migrants, mostly from Africa and the Middle East, have come to Italy's shores since 2014. The numbers, however, have dropped since 2017, when Italy struck a deal with the Libyan authorities, whom they provide with equipment, vessels and training for more effective coastal control.

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