Italian Senate votes to lift Salvini immunity over migrant boat

FILE PHOTO: Leader of Italy’s far-right party Matteo Salvini gestures at the Senate ahead of a vote on whether to pursue an investigation against him that could give rise to a trial for alleged kidnapping of migrants, in Rome, Italy February 12, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

ROME (Reuters) – Italian senators voted on Wednesday to lift immunity for far-right leader Matteo Salvini, opening the way for a potentially career-ending trial over accusations he illegally detained migrants at sea last year.

The result of the vote is due to be formally announced around 1800 GMT but a Reuters tally of the count showed a majority in favor of removing Salvini’s legal protection as a former minister.

The decision gives magistrates in Sicily the go-ahead to press charges over his decision to keep 131 rescued migrants blocked aboard a coastguard ship for six days last July as he waited for other European Union states to agree to take them in.

Salvini, the head of Italy’s League party who was serving as interior minister at the time, could eventually face up to 15 years in jail if found guilty at the end of Italy’s tortuous legal process. Conviction could also bar him from political office, dashing his ambitions to lead a future government.

Reporting by Angelo Amante, writing by Crispian Balmer, editing by Gavin Jones

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