[WATCH] Updated | Sicilian tribunal rules Matteo Salvini may face up to 15-year prison term

A tribunal rules Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini may face judicial proceedings over a decision to block the Italian coastguard vessel Diciotti from disembarking migrants last summer

The Italian coastguard ship Diciotti
The Italian coastguard ship Diciotti

Overturning a decision by the Catania prosecutor’s office, a tribunal in Sicily has ruled that judicial proceedings may be started against Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini which may land him up to 15 years in prison.

The case concerns Salvini’s decision last summer to stop the Italian coastguard vessel Diciotti from disembarking rescued migrants.

The vessel remained anchored for days outside the port of Catania.

The Catania prosecutor had said there were no grounds to probe Salvini because his decision to close the port to the vessel was political after Malta refused to help.

READ ALSO: Migrant testifies how Malta directed boat in distress towards Italy

Malta has maintained that the rescued migrants were not within its area of competence and once the Diciotti carried out the rescue it should have taken them to Lampedusa, which was the closest port of call.

But now, a tribunal is insisting Salvini should face judicial proceedings, with the possibility of ending up in jail. The decision does not imply Salvini will be charged anytime soon because the Italian senate will have to decide whether to wave immunity.

In comments after the ruling, Salvini said he has blocked the arrival of immigrants and insisted Italian ports would remain closed.

“Ask the Italians if I should continue doing my job as a minister, defending the country as requested by the constitution, or allow the judiciary to decide on the country’s migration policy,” Salvini was quoted saying by the Italian media.

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