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Migrants stranded at sea in 2019: Richard Gere could testify against Matteo Salvini


Matteo Salvini is accused of kidnapping people and abuse of power for having prohibited the disembarkation of 147 migrants rescued at sea by the Spanish NGO Open Arms in August 2019

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Italian sovereignist Matteo Salvini – accused of illegally blocking migrants at sea in 2019 when he was Minister of the Interior – said on September 26 that actor Richard Gere would testify against him during his trial.

“Richard Gere will testify against me during the Open Arms trial on October 23 in Palermo” in Sicily, he revealed during a political rally, according to comments reported by the Italian agency Ansa. “I know him as an actor, but I don’t understand what kind of lessons he wants to give me”, added the boss of La Ligue (far-right). “If anyone wants to turn the trial into a spectacle and wants to see Richard Gere, let him go to the cinema not to a court”, he quipped, promising to ask the American actor “an autograph for my mother”.

Matteo Salvini is accused of kidnapping people and abuse of power for having prohibited the disembarkation of 147 migrants rescued at sea by the Spanish NGO Open Arms in August 2019. At the time, he had refused for six days to grant a safe harbor for the NGO ship which anchored off the small Italian island of Lampedusa (south of Sicily) as conditions on board worsened. Since the start of this affair, Matteo Salvini has defended himself by asserting that he acted for the good of Italy and to dissuade migrants from embarking on the African coasts for a dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean.

Richard Gere had boarded the Open Arms ship in August 2019 to provide support to migrants, a visit then mocked by Salvini.

The trial opened on September 15 in Palermo but was immediately postponed until October 23. Twenty-three civil parties, including nine migrants who were on board, are represented at the trial.

Matteo Salvini entered the League’s coalition government in 2018 with the 5 Star Movement (M5S, anti-system) but in August 2019 he caused a government crisis by hoping to reshuffle the cards during early legislative elections. The maneuver had failed and the M5S had managed to form a new government with the Democratic Party (PD, center left), which was replaced in early 2021 by a broad coalition government including the League and led by Mario Draghi.



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