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Former Italian minister Matteo Salvini to face trial over charges of holding migrants

Matteo Salvini

Rome, Feb 13 (UITV/IANS)- Italy's Senate has voted to allow prosecutors to put far-right leader and former minister Matteo Salvini on trial over charges of holding migrants at sea.

Salvini, who previously served as Italy's interior minister, is accused of illegally keeping people on a boat off Sicily for days in August 2019, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

Some 116 migrants remained aboard the Gregoretti for close to a week.

On Wednesday, a majority of senators voted for the trial of the anti-immigration League leader to go ahead.

Salvini has repeatedly said he wants to go to court. He told the chamber he wanted "to tell the world" that his migration policies "saved tens of thousands of lives."

"I am absolutely calm and proud of what I have done. And I'll do it again as soon as I get back into government," he said later.

Senators from his League party left the chamber rather than take part in Wednesday's vote.

Under Italian law, ministers have parliamentary immunity for actions taken while they were in office. But a committee voted last month to strip Salvini of his immunity - leaving the final decision in the hands of the Senate on Wednesday.

The upper house Senate voted 152-76 in favour of lifting the immunity.

After the tally was announced, Salvini compared himself to US President Donald Trump, who was impeached in December and accused opponents of undermining his electoral success through the courts.

"I, like Trump? 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," he wrote on Twitter.

If successfully prosecuted at trial, Salvini could face up to 15 years in jail.