Richard Gere to testify against Salvini in migrant case

Star boarded Open Arms to voice support for 'abducted' migrants

(ANSA) - ROME, SEP 27 - Richard Gere is to testify against nationalist League party leader Matteo Salvini in a case in which the former interior minister is accused of 'abducting' some 150 rescued migrants on board a ship operated by Spanish NGO Open Arms as part of his closed-ports policy in August 2019, Salvini said Sunday.
    Gere boarded the ship while Salvini was preventing it landing at Lampedusa in Sicily to express his solidarity with the 151 mainly north African migrants aboard.
    "I know him as an actor but I don't know what lesson he can give me or the Italians on our laws," Salvini said.
    The Hollywood star is set to testify in Palermo on October 23.
    "If some people are trying to turn the trial into a show and wants to see Richard Gere, let them go to the cinema, not the court," said the nationalist leader.
    Salvini added that he would ask Gere for an autograph for his mother.
    Palermo prosecutors have said that Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and ex-premier and 5-Star Movement (M5S) leader Giuseppe Conte are among 26 witnesses it has called in the trial.
    The Open Arms spent almost three weeks at sea after Salvini refused to give the OK for it to dock on the island of Lampedusa when he was a minister in the first of two Conte governments.
    The case stems from Salvini's former closed-ports policy against NGO-run migrant rescue ships during his 14-month stint as strongman interior minister.
    Salvini has said he acted to defend Italy's borders and in accordance with a policy agreed with the rest of the government of the day.
    He has said that the trial is politically motivated.
    In May Salvini was cleared in a similar case regarding rescued migrants on the Gregoretti coast guard ship in July 2019.


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