Italy: Will Salvini go on trial?
The way has been paved for Italy's former interior minister to face trial in Rome after the country's Senate lifted Matteo Salvini's immunity on Wednesday. The leader of the far-right Lega is accused of abuse of office and deprivation of liberty. In July 2019 he refused for several days to allow the coast guard ship Gregoretti with 116 refugees on board to dock at an Italian port. Commentators fear the trial will help Salvini rather than harm him.
Weak adversaries pinning their hopes on the courts
The government doesn't have much to counter Salvini politically, columnist Marcello Sorgi explains in La Stampa:
“The judges will have to decide whether keeping the Italian ship Gregoretti carrying 116 migrants at sea and preventing it from docking in the port for days on end was tantamount to kidnapping - or whether it wasn't the logical political premise of the work that Prime Minister Conte was doing at the same time in order to get deaf Europe to heed the need for the redistribution of those rescued at sea. ... [The government] is hoping that Salvini will not come away from this matter unscathed. Since they can't rid themselves of this fearsome adversary through political means, those in power are hoping the courts will do the job for them. That's possible, but it's a weak ambition politically.”
Lega boss will thrive in victim role
The trial will actually be good for the former interior minister politically, BBC News believes:
“For a man who has built his political success on a hard anti-migrant line, the decision to try him for blocking migrants from Italy feeds the image he presents of himself as defender of the Italian nation. Italy's populist-in-chief will revel in a move that depicts the man of the people as being targeted by the establishment. And although eventual conviction could potentially end Matteo Salvini's political career, he won't be too worried for now. The wheels of justice move slowly in Italy: even if he were convicted, he'd have the right to two appeals, which could take years.”
It's not just Salvini who deserves condemnation, the Süddeutsche Zeitung stresses:
“Some politicians of Cinque Stelle are also putting on a hypocritical show. The former coalition partner long supported the sometimes inhumane course against refugees. Now it is seeking distance with reference to changed laws that make a distinction between the case in question and other cases. And Cinque Stelle representatives boast that the tough course has secured greater cooperation from other EU countries when it comes to taking in refugees. The EU, for its part, is also being a little hypocritical. It is promoting the cooperation Salvini praised with Libya's highly questionable coastguard service, which he used to drive away rescue organisations. Many should be ashamed of themselves in this matter.”