Italy's Salvini ridicules calling of actor Gere to kidnapping trial

Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy's right-wing League party, said a trial where he faces kidnapping charges for refusing to let a migrant ship dock in the country in 2019 was not serious as actor Richard Gere was admitted to testify.

Salvini, who was Italy's interior minister at that time, appeared on Saturday (October 23) at the second hearing of a trial in the Sicilian capital Palermo, where the court approved a list of witnesses.

Witnesses include Italy's former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Hollywood actor Richard Gere

Gere was in Italy at the time and joined the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms -- which managed the rescue ship -- to deliver food to people on board.

Salvini told reporters "Now you tell me how serious is a trial where Richard Gere comes from Hollywood to testify on how bad I am."

Proactiva Open Arms told the court Gere could give a direct account of the conditions onboard the vessel, which was stranded off the Italian island of Lampedusa for 19 days before prosecutors ordered the evacuation of the people on board.

It is not clear whether Gere will appear in-person to give evidence at the trial.

Salvini, who has built much of his political fortune on an anti-immigration campaign, said he simply did his duty as a minister.

Adding that defending a country's borders is not just a minister's duty but everyone's duty.

Salvini could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty at the end of a long three-stage judicial process.

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