The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, has stated, in a visit this Wednesday to the rescue ship Open Arms, that the City Council will appear as a private prosecution in the case against former Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
Salvini faces a trial for alleged crimes of kidnapping people and document falsification, after having denied, in August 2019, entry to the port of Lampedusa to the Spanish rescue ship Open Arms, with 163 people on board. The judge has accepted the accusations of 18 civil parties that appear in the case, among them, 7 immigrants who were traveling on the ship.
The Barcelona City Council had, in 2019, an agreement with the NGO, for which he donated nearly half a million euros (almost 35% of the total project, according to the council). The city of Barcelona granted the NGO the gold medal for civic merit.
For this reason, “The City Council may claim from Salvini the patrimonial damages caused by the blockade of the ship”In addition, according to the mayor’s office in a statement, it must repair the damage caused to the image of the city by the accusations that the former Interior Minister made then.
“At the time they wanted to fine us a million euros, both the Spanish and Italian governments, and now you can see, everyone is seeing, that that was an outrage, that we were victims of an abuse of power. And those people who needed immediate help were deprived of their liberty, as the international conventions say, ”explains Oscar Camps, director of the NGO, who is convinced that he is fully respecting these conventions, as well as maritime law.
During the 21 days that the ship remained in the water without being able to dock, 14 people jumped overboard trying to reach land. Shortly after, the Agrigento prosecutor allowed the landing. Then the prosecutor described the situation as “one of great physical and mental discomfort, of deep psychological affectation, and of extremely high emotional tension that could have provoked reactions difficult to control, of which, in addition, the attempt to reach the island by swimming was only a prelude ”.
It is not the first time that the politician of the Northern League faces a trial of this type. On October 3, 2020, Salvini already sat before a court, this time in Catania, accused of not allow the disembarkation of 131 rescued people by a ship of the Italian Navy.
From the NGO they consider that the Italian politician blocked the entrance to the boat for electoral purposes. Salvini’s lawyer, for her part, maintains the thesis that was already defended and validated in the previous trial, that the decision was made en bloc throughout the Government. In addition, it affirms that the Open Arms had many other alternatives that it rejected and that, having carried out the rescue in Libyan and Maltese waters, and being a Spanish-flagged ship, Italy was not the country that should indicate a safe port.
Last Saturday, January 9, the trial preview. At the request of the defense, the magistrate has decided to postpone the celebration of lhearing on March 20, 2021, then it will be known whether or not the politician should sit on the bench.
The hearing on the 9th was held in the bunker of the Ucciardone prison in Palermo, in Sicily. Interestingly, the same place where the macro-process that took place in Italy in the 80s was held, in which 474 defendants were tried. A trial that was carried out by judges Giovani Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, murdered by Cosa Nostra in 1992.
Chronology of the events of which Salvini is accused
In August 2019, Salvini, then Minister of the Interior, denied landing on the island of Lampedusa for 21 days (the southernmost island in Italy) to about 160 migrants who had been rescued at sea by the ship of the Spanish NGO Open Arms.
In the end there were only left on board less than 90 after a partial evacuation drip for medical reasons and the launching into the sea of several dozen of them as a result of desperation.
Only in the final three days, when the ship was anchored just 800 meters from the port of Lampedusa, almost a score of migrants jumped overboard and reached the port or were rescued.
The first offer from the Spanish Government to open a port to these migrants came after a 17-day odyssey, but the Open Arms refused to set sail for the ports of Algeciras and Mahón.
With the migrants crowded on deck in harsh conditions, they alleged security reasons, lack of facilities and the poor physical and mental condition of those rescued, as well as the fatigue of the crew and volunteers due to the long crisis.
Madrid sent the ship “Audaz” of the Spanish Navy to take charge of the migrants and escort the “Open Arms” to the port of Mallorca.
But finally, on the night of August 20, the Prosecutor’s Office allowed the 83 immigrants who remained on board to disembark in Lampedusa, putting an end to the odyssey. The Agrigento prosecutor made the decision after boarding the Spanish ship accompanied by several doctors to verify the status of the migrants and the situation on board.