Prosecutors drop most charges against Salvini in migrant case

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Rome, Sep 8 (IANS/AKI) Sicilian prosecutors have dropped all charges but one -- kidnapping -- against Italy's hardline interior minister Matteo Salvini in the case of 177 rescued migrants left stranded on a coastguard ship last month after Salvini refused to allow them ashore.

Salvini's chief of staff Matteo Piantedosi no longer faces charges in the case, prosecutors said.

Palermo presiding judge Fabio Pilato said on Friday he was instructing Italy's special ministerial court to investigate Salvini for the single charge of kidnapping the 177 migrants, who spend 10 days aboard the Diciotti patrol vessel after Salvini refused to allow them to disembark in Catania unless the European Union "stepped in".

"Senator Salvini has been informed of this procedure, and the victims of the alleged offence are in the process of being informed, as required by law," the Sicilian prosecutors stated.

Prosecutors in August said they were probing Salvini and Piantedosi for kidnapping in order to coerce, illegal detention, abuse of office and negligence in the Diociotti case, an investigation Salvini said "would not stop" his drive against migration.

Salvini ordered the migrants to be allowed off the Diciotti on August 25 after Ireland and Albania and agreed to take 45 while the Italian Catholic Church agreed to take most of the others and relocate them to parishes across Italy.

Italy appeared in the Diciotti standoff to have flouted the European Convention on Human Rights which states that any asylum seeker detained for more than 48 hours should be released and given the opportunity to apply for refugee status.