The Italian Senate voted Wednesday to lift former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s parliamentary immunity over his treatment of asylum seekers.
Under Italian law, Salvini had immunity from criminal prosecution over actions he had taken while serving as interior minister.
But, at the request of prosecutors in Catania, Sicily, the Senate voted 152-76 to strip Salvini of his immunity, thus formally authorizing prosecutors to press charges against him for his decision to refuse entry to approximately 131 asylum-seeking migrants into Italy last July.
Salvini would likely be charged with aggravated kidnapping for illegally keeping the migrants aboard a coastguard ship for nearly six days and refusing to let them disembark in Italy. He risks a potential end to his political career and could face up to 15 years in prison if the legal process moves forward and he is found guilty at trial.
Through it all, Salvini has maintained his innocence of any wrongdoing. “I want to go to a courtroom with my head held high. Defending the borders was my duty. I am proud of what I have done, for my children and for the children of this country. Let’s have a judge decide if I’m a criminal or if I was just doing my job,” said Salvini.