Richard Gere summoned by Italian court over migrant boat

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Gere was asked to give evidence by defence lawyers US actor Richard Gere has been summoned to Italy’s central criminal court in Palermo to testify against a prominent…

Richard Gere summoned by Italian court over migrant boat

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Gere was asked to give evidence by defence lawyers

US actor Richard Gere has been summoned to Italy’s central criminal court in Palermo to testify against a prominent right-wing politician who is suspected of helping a migrant boat reach Italian shores, according to the case’s official summary.

Gere is suspected of hiring a boat to save 75,000 migrants in Libya from the increasing risk of being transferred to Libyan jails and summary executions.

He says he was at sea on a humanitarian mission, when he was not.

Salvini rejects the charges as without merit.

The case stems from the 2015 rescue of 800 migrants at sea by a Danish cargo ship and a French aid group.

Salvini, who led the anti-migrant League party until his appointment as interior minister in July, was taken to court in Palermo for questioning on 21 October after a private prosecutor issued a summons.

It also names key participants in the saving of some 80,000 migrants on the Libyan coast, in what was dubbed the “Malta rescue”, by the ship M/V Phoenix.

Defence lawyers asked the actor to testify before the court on 10 December.

It is not the first time Gere has been called to testify by Italian judges.

In 2015, he was accused of complicity in the sexual exploitation of women in Italian brothels, but his case was later dropped.

He was also accused of rape, but the allegations were dropped after a previous judge asked for more evidence, prosecutors said.

Judge Flavia Tronconi, who is handling the Salvini case, said at the time that her decision to drop the sexual-assault case was not related to politics.

“Gere’s status as a famous personality cannot influence how I decide,” she said.

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