The decision contradicts the resolution in a similar case last month related to Salvini’s treatment of migrants and refugees.
An Italian judge in Sicily has dismissed a case against right-wing leader Matteo Salvini for refusing to let migrants and refugees disembark from a coastguard ship in 2019, saying no crime had been committed.
The case focused on an incident in July 2019, when Salvini, then Italian Interior Minister, blocked more than 100 people aboard the Gregoretti for six days while waiting for European allies to agree to resettle them.
Some had accused Salvini of kidnapping refugees.
But Catania prosecutors had asked the judge not to send Salvini to trial, saying his decision did not violate international treaties and was not considered kidnapping.
The case of Catania is similar to an independent investigation in the Sicilian capital of Palermo into migrants and refugees who were kept aboard another ship a month after the Gregoretti incident.
However, in a contrasted decision, a Palermo judge ordered last month that Salvini be tried on those charges. He could receive up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
“If there was no kidnapping in Catania, I don’t see why there should be kidnapping in Palermo,” Salvini said after Friday’s sentencing.
“It’s a beautiful day, not just for me and my family, but for all Italians who want controlled, regulated and positive immigration, and not thousands of arrivals that this post-COVID summer we can’t afford.”
The trial in Palermo will begin on September 15. A final conviction could prevent him from taking over the government.
Campaign against immigration
Italy this month again sees a large number of arrivals on its southernmost island of Lampedusa. More than 2,100 people arrived over the weekend alone.
During his 14 months as interior minister, Salvini prevented several ships from docking in Italy with the aim of detaining immigrants and refugees entering the country and regularly accused the charities that operated them of effective smuggling of people.
He has built much of his political profile in an anti-immigration campaign.
In the summer of 2019, when his party was at the polls, Salvini withdrew the League from the then coalition government in a failed attempt to activate an election.
Now the League is part of Mario Draghi’s national unity government, which two months ago.
Despite having lost voter support since its failed 2019 movement, the party remains the most popular in Italy, according to most opinion polls.