Richard Gere has agreed to testify against Italy’s former right-wing interior minister Matteo Salvini, which is on trial for refusing to allow a Spanish migrant rescue ship to dock in an Italian port in 2019.
Prosecutors in Sicily have accused Salvini of neglect and kidnapping blocks the NGO vessel Open Arms from docking in August 2019 as part of his policy for closed ports. There were 147 people on board rescued in the Mediterranean. During the standoff, as the ship docked off the island of Lampedusa, some people threw themselves overboard in desperation.
When Gere, who was on holiday with his family in Tuscany at the time, heard about the stranded ship, he talked to the NGO and traveled to Sicily to join charities and help provide food and supplies to the people on board.
The 72-year-old actor later attended a conference in Lampedusa and appeared in a video message urging people to support the charity and the people it rescued.
“All hands on board would have been lost,” Gere said in the video.
“I already came to Lampedusa, two or three years ago, to visit the migrant’s hotspot, so I knew the situation first hand,” he said. “These are people who have lived terrible stories. They have suffered a lot. They call them migrants, but they are refugees who need help. ”
After 19 days, all migrants and refugees were allowed to land in Lampedusa. Salvini said he had only done his job by denying access to ship.
“I’m going to court for defending my country?” he said. “I go with my head held high, also in your name,” he told the media earlier.
Last week, attorneys representing Open Arms filed a list of witnesses ready to testify against Salvini, including Gere. When contacted by The Guardian, the Open Arms confirmed that Gere was willing to testify if a judge allowed it. The court’s decision is expected on October 23.
“If anyone wants to turn the lawsuit into a show and wants to see it Richard Gere, let him go to the cinema, not to a court, ”Salvini told the press. “I know him as an actor, but I do not understand what he will give me of lessons,” he added, promising to ask for an autograph for his mother.
If Salvini is convicted, he risks up to 15 years in prison.
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