Italy’s Salvini pokes fun at actor Gere’s call to the kidnapping process


PALERMO, Italy, Oct. 23 (Reuters) – Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing Italian league party, said a trial in which he was charged with kidnapping for refusing to allow a migrant ship to dock in the country in 2019 was as an actor Richard Gere not being taken seriously was admitted to testify.

Salvini, then Italian interior minister, appeared on Saturday for the second hearing of a trial in the Sicilian capital, Palermo, where the court approved a list of witnesses.

Witnesses include Italy’s former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, other senior Italian politicians and Hollywood actor Richard Gere, who was in Italy at the time and joined the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, which ran the rescue ship to help people on board to provide with food.

“Now tell me how serious is a lawsuit where Richard Gere comes from Hollywood to testify how bad I am,” said Salvini.

Proactiva Open Arms told the court Gere could provide a direct report on conditions aboard the ship, which was stranded off the Italian island of Lampedusa for 19 days, before prosecutors ordered the evacuation of the people on board. Continue reading

It is not clear whether Gere will appear in person to testify at the trial.

Right-wing Italian league party leader Matteo Salvini and his lawyer Giulia Bongiorno walk to a hearing at the trial against him for kidnapping for his decision to prevent more than 100 migrants from landing in the country in 2019, in Palermo, Italy, Oct. 23 2021. REUTERS / Antonio Parrinello

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Salvini, who built much of his political fortune on an anti-immigration campaign, said he was simply doing his duty as minister.

“Defending the borders, security, honor and dignity of a country is not just a minister’s duty, it is everyone’s duty,” he said. “It is surreal to be tried because I was just doing my duty,” he said.

“A Spanish boat that refuses to go to Spain is abusing,” he added. “When Spain gives its flag to boats that it cannot control, there is a problem.”

Salvini faces up to 15 years in prison if found guilty at the end of a long three-stage judicial process.

A final conviction could expel him from future government offices.

The court has scheduled another hearing on December 17th.

Letter from Giulio Piovaccari; Editing by Christina Fincher

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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