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Palermo Court Begins Hearing Against Italy's Salvini Over Blocking Migrant Ship, Reports Say

© AP Photo / Roberto MonaldoThe League's Matteo Salvini addresses the media after meeting with Mario Draghi, at the Chamber of Deputies in Rome, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021
The League's Matteo Salvini addresses the media after meeting with Mario Draghi, at the Chamber of Deputies in Rome, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.10.2021
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ROME (Sputnik) - Former Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini appeared before a Palermo court on Saturday for alleged abuse of power over denial to let an NGO migrant rescue ship to dock in Italy, media reported.
Salvini attended in person the first court hearing, La Sicilia newspaper said, adding that the Palermo court ruled not to allow journalists into the courtroom. Media representatives can follow the process from a special room in the court, where the video broadcast of the trial is aired.
Salvini is said to have prevented the Spanish Open Arms rescue ship with some 150 migrants aboard from docking at Lampedusa island in August 2019 when he was the country's interior minister. Last year, Italy's Senate voted to strip Salvini of his parliamentary immunity, paving the way for charges in the so-called Open Arms case.
Salvini insists that it was his duty as minister to stop the irregular migrant flow to Italy, as it was government policy at the time. If convicted, the ex-minister may face up to 15 years in prison.
Last month, the far-right politician said that US actor Richard Gere who had boarded the ship while it was stranded agreed to testify in the case.
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