Richard Gere witnesses Matteo Salvini’s trial in Palermo

Richard Gere witnesses Matteo Salvini's trial in Palermo

A controversial court case in Palermo gets a Hollywood touch, at least in a supporting role. Film star Richard Gere, 72, best known for examples from “Pretty Woman” and “An Officer and a Gentleman,” has been admitted as a witness in the trial against Matteo Salvini in the case. open arms. Italy’s former interior minister and head of the right-wing populist party Lega is accused of abusing his office in August 2019, when he landed a ship of Catalan NGO Proactiva Open Arms with 147 refugees in an Italian port for 19 days. failed. The charge is of deprivation of liberty. If convicted, Salvini faces up to 15 years in prison.

In the politically turbulent Italian summer that was to end in the fall of Salvini, Gere was on vacation with his family in Italy. “Near Rome,” the committed actor once said. He heard about the Open Arms blockade from Lampedusa, contacted marine rescuers, then flew to the island, bought fruit and mineral water for the passengers, and went on board to help. Open Arms proposed Gere as a witness so that he could directly report on the dramatic circumstances. Some refugees jumped out of desperation, others had to be brought by ship as a medical emergency.

Palermo’s public prosecutor would now have preferred if Open Arms had spared witness Gere: His summons only unnecessarily turned the proceedings into a “spectacle”, it said. But the court accepted all the witnesses from both the sides. In addition to Gere and some refugees, former Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, current Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and Interior Minister Luciana Lamorges as well as former Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat will testify in the process.

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Salvini’s defense tried again, as in other cases, to transfer responsibility to the entire government: the line of “closed ports” along which the interior minister himself had known around the world was supported by all the partners in the cabinet. He is personally proud that he has protected the country. Salvini says even Italy was not responsible for them at all open arms: The Spanish ship could continue with its Spanish home port to Spain. No one stopped the crew from doing so, so accusing them of deprivation of liberty is false.

Before the first trial began, Salvini posted on Twitter a photo from the court hall at the Pagliarelli prison in Palermo, accompanied by bar: “Leftists and friends of illegal immigration want this procedure: How much will it cost the Italians?” And after the key witness was admitted, he said into the cameras and microphones of waiting reporters: “Tell me: how serious is a trial in which Richard Gere comes to Hollywood to say I’m angry?” The tamasha has already started without the film star.

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