Salvini’s rage as Captain Rackete walks free

AGRIGENTO, Sicily – Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has vented his frustration as judges dropped all pending charges against the captain of migrant-rescue ship Sea Watch, allowing German skipper Carola Rackete to walk free.

 Salvini said he had prepared an expulsion order for Rackete, 31, vowing "We will send her back to Germany.” However, the order cannot be carried out until Rackete is next questioned, this time on charges of aiding illegal immigration.

 An Italian preliminary judge Tuesday ordered charges to be dropped against captain Rackete, finding that she had not acted illegally in ignoring a port entry ban and ramming a police boat as she forced her way into Lampedusa harbour to land the 40 migrants she had on board, judicial sources said. She has been released from house arrest after four days of confinement.

 The investigating judge ruled that Rackete acted legally in fulfilling a duty to save lives at sea. He also ruled that the choice of Lampedusa as a port was reasonable and legal, since Libyan and Tunisian ports were not safe havens.

 This ruling belies Salvini’s portrayal of the German NGO and its captain as criminal over the past few weeks and represents a considerable setback for the League leader.

 “I have no words,” Salvini wrote in a post on Facebook. “What do you need to do to end up in jail in Italy? I am ashamed that in this country they allow a criminal to come from abroad, to disobey the laws and put the lives of soldiers who are doing their jobs in danger.”

 Reactions from those who supported Sea Watch were strong too. Sea Watch itself vowed Tuesday that it will resume its rescue operations, using a new ship if necessary, since the one skippered by Rackete was impounded by the Italian coastguard. And several MEPs in the new European Parliament in Strasbourg brought signs demanding the release of Rackete, such as “Free Carola” and “Rescue is not a crime.”

 Fellow NGOs also expressed solidarity with Sea Watch’s plight. Tavolo Asilo, Doctors Without Borders, Open Arms, Mediterranea Saving Humans and Antigone have all said they will boycott the hearing Wednesday of the House Constitutional Affairs and Justice committee. A protest from the League party means Sea Watch was barred from the meeting.

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