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article imageFresh probe into Italy's Salvini for 'false imprisonment'

By AFP     Apr 15, 2019 in World

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Monday he was once more under investigation for alleged false imprisonment after refusing to let migrants disembark from a rescue ship.

Attempts to launch trial proceedings against the far-right League for blocking migrants aboard another ship earlier this year fell through after the Senate ruled he should not be stripped of his parliamentary protection to face charges.

But prosecutors in the Sicilian port city of Syracuse, where the ship took shelter from bad weather between January 24 and 30, have opened an investigation into alleged false imprisonment and named Salvini and other ministers in their investigation.

"I am under investigation once again for 'false imprisonment'," Salvini said on Twitter as it emerged that other senior ministers, including Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and vice-premier Luigi Di Maio, were likewise having their role probed.

"I received the same notification (as Salvini) yesterday (Sunday)," said Di Maio of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement which is in a coalition with Salvini's far-right League.

Minister of Transport Danilo Toninelli is also under investigation, Italian media reported.

"I don't know whether to laugh about it or not," Salvini said, insisting that his policy of closing Italy's port to people attempting the perilous crossing from Libya to Italy still stands.

"They can take me to court 18 times -- as long as I am a minister I shall not change my mind" on the issue, he insisted.

Prosecutors in the Sicilian port city of Syracuse opened the investigation against Salvini over his ...
Prosecutors in the Sicilian port city of Syracuse opened the investigation against Salvini over his order to stop migrants disembarking from the rescue ship
FEDERICO SCOPPA, AFP/File

The probe centres on 47 people rescued on January 19 off Libya by the ship Sea Watch 3, owned by a German charity and flying a Dutch flag, which was only permitted to dock on January 31 after Italy struck a deal with other European countries to take in the migrants.

Palermo mayor Leoluca Orlando, who in January had offered to allow the Sea Watch ship to berth, said he hoped that Salvini would "not be tempted to try to dodge justice once more with the odious recourse to parliamentary immunity".

The probe earlier this year related to the rescue in August of 190 people by Italy's Diciotti coast guard ship, who were left stuck at sea for 10 days without permission to dock.

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