Italy’s right-wing opposition leader Matteo Salvini compared himself to President Trump Wednesday after the Italian Senate voted to allow prosecutors to put him on trial for allegedly holding 132 migrants hostage by forcing them to remain on a coast guard vessel, rather than enter an Italian port.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Liverpool, England, slammed Salvini as a “fascist” who promotes “division and hate,” saying he wouldn’t be welcome in the city for his Euroskeptic League party’s global conference scheduled to take place there next month.
In a debate before the vote, Salvini, who is the former foreign minister, said he would be proud to stand trial for defending Italy's borders. A commission voted last month to strip his parliamentary immunity last month. The Senate vote Wednesday upheld the decision, clearing the way for Italy's Tribunal of Ministers to pursue the case against him, BBC reported.
“I, like Trump?'' Salvini tweeted after the Italian Senate vote. “He has a few more billions and a few more years, but it's a bad little habit of the left, going around in the world, to try to win by judicial means."
"I want to be proud of what I did, with my head held high," Salvini told reporters earlier Wednesday as the Senate deliberated, according to the Associated Press. “Our Constitution says that protecting our homeland is a holy duty for Italian citizens.”
As foreign minister, Salvini launched a crackdown on unauthorized migration, something he linked to increased crime. His policies, which included denying migrant rescue ships access to Italian ports, brought his Euroskeptic League party support at home and criticism abroad.
Members of his League party refused to participate in the Senate vote Wednesday and, instead, walked out, BBC reported.
In the case pondered by the Senate on Wednesday, migrants had been transferred to the Italian coast guard vessel after some of them were rescued by a cargo boat, while others were taken from their unseaworthy boat by an Italian border patrol vessel. Libya-based human traffickers launch boats crowded with Europe-bound migrants.
Prosecutors in Sicily investigated Salvini for alleged kidnapping for keeping 131 rescued migrants aboard the Italian coast guard vessel for six days related to the incident.
Salvini also denied that he planned to come to the Lega nel Mondo, a global network of the League established by Salvini in 2018, in Liverpool in March, the Guardian reported. Liverpool mayor, Steve Rotheram, addressed Salvini in remarks Wednesday, saying “the only audience he’ll find here is one that won’t be shy in telling him what they think of fascists like him.”
“My presence in Liverpool was never scheduled,” Salvini told reporters, adding that Rotheram is welcome in Milan “to eat osso buco or polenta” and so “that way we’ll show him that Milan hasn’t been invaded by fascists. I’m sorry that someone has made a judgment without knowing the facts.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.