German rescue captain to sue Italy’s Salvini over migrant comments

Carola Rackete’s lawyer said she will sue Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. (Reuters)
Updated 05 July 2019

German rescue captain to sue Italy’s Salvini over migrant comments

  • Salvini has repeatedly denounced Rackete, calling her a pirate and an outlaw, and promising to expel her from Italy
  • Rackete was freed after a judge dismissed accusations she had endangered the lives of Italian servicemen by ignoring military orders and bringing migrants to Lampedusa

ROME: The German captain of a migrant rescue ship will sue Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini for defamation, her lawyer said on Friday, intensifying the battle of wills between the charity worker and the far-right leader.
Carola Rackete, 31, was freed from house arrest on Tuesday after a judge dismissed accusations she had endangered the lives of Italian servicemen by ignoring military orders and bringing a boatload of migrants to the port of Lampedusa.
Salvini has repeatedly denounced Rackete, calling her a “pirate” and an “outlaw,” and promising to expel her from Italy.
Rackete’s lawyer Alessandro Gamberini said a lawsuit had been drawn up. “We have already prepared the case against minister Salvini,” he told Radio Cusano Campus, accusing the minister of stirring up hatred.
Rackete, who sports long, distinctive dreadlocks, has been targeted by Internet trolls, with threats of rape and death thrown her way on social media. She is currently in hiding.
“A defamation case is a way of sending a signal. When people get hit in the wallet they understand that they cannot insult people gratuitously,” he added, referring to the eventual fines that might be inflicted on Salvini if he loses the case.
Salvini, who heads the far-right coalition League party and also serves as deputy prime minister, appeared to relish the prospect of a court encounter.
“She breaks laws and attacks Italian military ships, and then sues me. Mobsters don’t frighten me, let alone a rich and spoiled German communist!” he wrote on Twitter.
Rackete herself still faces possible charges of aiding illegal immigration and resisting public officials and faces questioning in Sicily by magistrates next week. Her Sea-Watch 3 boat has been impounded as the investigation continues.
Since taking office a year ago, Salvini has introduced a battery of anti-migrant measures, leading to a sharp decline in new arrivals and a precipitous fall in charity ships operating off the coast of Libya in search of flimsy migrant boats.
Salvini said on Friday that another German charity ship, the Alan Kurdi, had picked up 65 people off the coast of Libya and warned it not to try to come to Italy.
“The boat can sail to Tunisia or Germany,” he said in a statement, adding that nearby Malta supported his stance.
Earlier on Friday, Malta said it would take in 54 migrants rescued by an Italian charity boat off Libya this week, as part of a migrant swap with Rome.
The two countries have repeatedly clashed over who should receive migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, but both have also criticized their European Union partners for failing to take in more of the newcomers.
“Our two countries have been suffering the indifference and failings of the European Union for years,” Salvini said.


French officers detained after fury over beating video

Updated 33 min 51 sec ago

French officers detained after fury over beating video

  • Images published by the Loopsider website show how music producer Michel Zecler was repeatedly beaten by police
  • Celebrities including football World Cup winners Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann condemned the beating

PARIS: French authorities on Friday detained four officers suspected of beating and racially abusing a black music producer in Paris in a case that has shocked President Emmanuel Macron and drawn outrage from celebrities and sports stars.
Images published by the Loopsider website show how music producer Michel Zecler was repeatedly beaten by police for several minutes and subjected to racial abuse as he tried to enter his music studio Saturday evening.
Celebrities including football World Cup winners Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann condemned the beating, while French star singer Aya Nakamura said she wished the producer strength, adding “thank you to those who filmed.”
A presidential official said Friday that Macron, too, was “very shocked” by the images.
The incident raised questions over the future of Paris police chief Didier Lallement, already in the spotlight after the controversial forced removal of a migrant camp in Paris earlier in the week.
It also put the government on the backfoot as it tries to push through new security legislation that would restrict the right of the media to publish the faces of police agents.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who is in charge of the police forces, told French television that the officers tarnished the reputation of France’s security forces.
The four officers, all men, were detained for questioning on Friday, a source close to the case told AFP.
The officers, who had already been suspended from duty, were being held at the National Police Inspectorate General (IGPN), and prosecutors opened an investigation into violence by a person in authority and false testimony, the source said.
Three of the four were being questioned on suspicion of “violence with a racist motive” committed intentionally in a group, prosecutors said. The fourth is being questioned on suspicion of using violence but is not accused of racism.
Zecler was initially himself detained for causing violence, but prosecutors threw out that probe and began investigating the officers instead.
Macron on Thursday held talks with Darmanin to call for tough punishments for those involved in the beating, a government source added.
“Nausea,” said the front page headline in the leftist Liberation daily over a close-up picture of Zecler’s swollen and bloodied face.
“The new video of a rare ferocity... adds to a problem fed over the last months by a succession of blunders and a tendency to revert to authoritarian tendencies,” it said.
The death in US police custody of George Floyd in May and the Black Lives Matter movement have reverberated in France where allegations of brutality against police officers are commonplace, particularly in poor and ethnically diverse urban areas.
“French police has a structural problem with violence, violence that is committed against visible minorities,” Fabien Jobard, a sociologist, told AFP.
“Unbearable video, unacceptable violence,” Mbappe wrote on Twitter next to a picture of the injured producer. “Say no to racism.”
The outcry comes after the lower house of parliament on Tuesday evening approved a security bill which would restrict the publication of photos or videos of police officers’ faces.
Media unions say it could give police a green light to prevent journalists from potentially documenting abuses, as well as stopping social media users from posting incriminating footage.
A protest against the draft law, which has yet to pass a Senate vote, has been called for Saturday in Paris.
In a sign that the government could be preparing to backtrack, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced late Thursday that he would appoint a commission to redraft Article 24 of the law that would restrict the publication of images of the police.
But this in turn sparked accusations that the prime minister was trying to bypass the legislature.
“It is not for the government to substitute the work of an external committee in the place of parliamentary prerogatives,” the speaker of the lower house Richard Ferrand told Castex, his office said.
Macron swept to power in 2017 as a centrist who rallied support from across the political spectrum. But critics and even some supporters accuse him of tilting to the right as he seeks re-election in 2022.
“Already accused of attacking public freedoms through the security bill... the executive faces an accumulation of cases of violence and police abuse, the images of which have disturbed even the ruling party,” said Le Monde daily.