ROME (Reuters) -Matteo Salvini, the head of Italy’s right-wing League party, should not stand trial over allegations he kidnapped a group of migrants by refusing to let them disembark from a ship, a judge in the Sicilian city of Catania ruled on Friday.
The case centred on an incident in July 2019, when Salvini, then interior minister, blocked more than 100 people aboard the Gregoretti coastguard ship for six days as he waited for European allies to agree to resettle them.
The Catania case is similar to a separate investigation in the Sicilian capital of Palermo over migrants who were kept aboard another boat a month after the Gregoretti incident.
However, in a completely contrasting decision, a judge in Palermo last month ordered that Salvini should stand trial over the allegations. He could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
“If there was no kidnapping in Catania, then I do not see why there should be kidnapping in Palermo,” Salvini told reporters after Friday’s ruling.
The trial in Palermo will begin on September 15.
Prosecutors in Catania had asked the judge not to send Salvini to trial, saying his decision did not violate international treaties and was not to be considered kidnapping.
(Reporting by Angelo Amante, editing by Giulia Segreti and Crispian Balmer)