SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 5 December 2021, Sunday |

Italy’s Salvini ridicules calling of actor Gere to kidnapping trial

Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s right-wing League party, claimed actor Richard Gere was invited to testify in a trial where he faces abduction accusations for refusing to let a migrant ship dock in the country in 2019.

Salvini, who was Italy’s Interior Minister at the time, appeared on Saturday in Palermo, Sicily’s capital, for the second hearing of a trial, when the court accepted a list of witnesses.

Former Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, several top Italian officials, and Hollywood actor Richard Gere, who was in Italy at the time and helped the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, which was in charge of the rescue ship, distribute food to those on board, are among those who have testified.

“Now tell me how serious a trial is where Richard Gere from Hollywood comes to testify on how horrible I am,” Salvini remarked.

Proactiva Open Arms informed the court that Gere could give a firsthand account of the conditions on board the ship, which had been stuck for 19 days off the coast of Lampedusa before prosecutors ordered the passengers on board to be evacuated.

It is not clear whether Gere will appear in person to give evidence at the trial.

Salvini, who has built much of his political fortune on an anti-immigration campaign, said he simply did his duty as a minister.

“Defending a country’s borders, security, honor and dignity is not just a minister’s duty but everyone’s duty,” he said. “Being put on trial for just doing my duty is surreal,” he said.

“A Spanish boat refusing to go to Spain commits an abuse,” he added. “If Spain gives its flag to boats it does not manage to control, then there is a problem”.

Salvini could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty at the end of a long three-stage judicial process.

A definitive conviction could bar him from future government office.

The court scheduled a further hearing on Dec. 17.