Italy’s new government lifts ban on Salvini lawsuits
Italian prosecutors have decided to push ahead with libel charges against the far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini for comments he made about German refugee rescue ship captain Carola Rackete.
An independent civil servant has replaced Salvini.
Luciana Lamorgese, an immigration specialist, is expected to bring Italy closer to its EU partners on migration, ending Salvini’s ban on charity ships rescuing migrants off the Libyan coast.
The German captain said Salvini “made many statements through the various channels at his disposal (TV interviews, Facebook updates, posts on Twitter) that are not manifestations of a legitimate right to criticise, but gratuitous assaults on my person that are directly and indirectly threatening”.
The lawsuit referred to Salvini’s phrases such as “illegal and outlawed organisation”, “pirate ship”, “accomplices of smugglers and traffickers” and “delinquents”.
In June, Rackete defied Salvini’s Interior Ministry by docking her ship, the Sea Watch 3. She was arrested and Salvini called her a pirate, criminal and “rich, white German woman” trying to address her guilt.
The German NGO Sea Watch launched the suit against the anti-migrant Lega leader in early August, claiming he was using his influence to incite violence against Rackete.
Salvini tweeted (in Italian): “Denounced by a German communist, a trafficker of immigrants, who rammed a finance guards motor launch: a medal for me! I’ll never give up.”
And a mayor who defied Salvini by sheltering migrants in the southern town of Riace has seen his house arrest lifted.
A court in Locri revoked the ban imposed on mayor Domenico Lucano, who was put under house arrest and expelled in October last year but can now return to Riace.
Salvini’s anti-migrant measures have seen him clash with prosecutors several times. The authorities in Sicily ruled that far-right populist could be charged with more than 100 counts of kidnapping for refusing to let migrants leave NGO ships when they arrived at Italian ports.
Salvini has parliamentary immunity from prosecution and was protected under the previous government.
The then deputy prime minister brought down the coalition of his Lega party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), hoping an early general election would allow him to become prime minister.
The gamble has humiliatingly failed and he is left to consider his blunder in opposition.
The new coalition government of M5S and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) will now need to decide whether to protect Salvini from prosecution. It might be decided that he would welcome the platform to proclaim his hostile rhetoric and that it is better to deny him the publicity.
Picture credit: Wikimedia