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Matteo Salvini: Italy's far-right leader loses his parliamentary immunity

Italian senators have backed stripping far-right leader Matteo Salvini of his parliamentary immunity.

It means Salvini could now face a trial for allegedly illegally detaining migrants at sea. It's in relation to a case last year when he refused to let a rescue ship carrying scores of migrants dock at the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Thursday's vote was close. 149 senators voted for, 141 against.

"I am proud to have defended Italy and I would do it again," said Salvini, reacting to the vote.

Prosecutors in the Sicilian city of Palermo accuse Salvini of abusing his powers as then-interior minister in August 2019 to prevent the Spanish NGO Open Arms ship from docking in Lampedusa. The rescue vessel was marooned at sea for nearly three weeks with more than 150 migrants on board.

He insisted the decision to stop migrants from getting off the ship — until a deal was reached with EU countries to take them in — was reached collectively within the government.

That’s the same defence Salvini is using in another similar trial, in which he is accused of blocking migrants from disembarking from the Italian "Gregoretti" coast guard boat last July.

In February, the Senate voted to strip Salvini of his parliamentary immunity in that case. The preliminary hearing has been postponed three times due to the coronavirus pandemic and is now scheduled to take place in Sicily on October 3.

Salvini’s opposition League party remains the most popular in Italy, but it has been sliding in opinion polls. A Demopolis survey this week found it has dropped over 11 points in a year.

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