Opposition populist leader Matteo Salvini gestures during press conference at the Foreign Press association, in Rome, Thursday,…
Opposition populist leader Matteo Salvini gestures during press conference at the Foreign Press association, in Rome, Feb. 13, 2020.

ROME - Italy’s far-right leader, Matteo Salvini, Thursday defended his position not to allow more than 100 migrants, who had been rescued at sea, to disembark from a coast guard vessel for six days last July. He said it was a shared decision with other members in the government.

Salvini, who was interior minister and deputy prime minister at the time, added that it was his duty to defend his nation as a citizen and even more so as a minister.

He said he does not think he will be found guilty in a trial.

The far-right leader was speaking one day after the Senate voted to lift his immunity from prosecution that had until now shielded him as a former Cabinet minister from being sent to trial. Now magistrates in Sicily will be able to press charges against him for abuse of power and kidnapping.

It is not clear when such a trial will begin but should Salvini be convicted, he could face a sentence of six months to 15 years in prison. He could also be barred from holding public office.

Salvini continues to promise he will return to power and says he believes in the impartiality of the judiciary.

Some Italians are voicing skepticism about the consequences of the vote now that the Senate has acted. Many say they doubt anything will occur because they think the judicial system moves very slowly.