Last July, Salvini, who had staked much of his political credibility on a pledge to curtail mass immigration from Africa, ordered the holding of 131 rescued migrants on board the Gregoretti coast guard vessel until other European states had agreed to take them in.

Salvini said at a recent rally in Maranello that he hopes there will be a trial.

"I say this to those senators who have to decide whether to send me to trial or not, I ask you formally, send me to trial, send me to trial because the Italian people will be on trial with me' stated the former minister of Interior.

The senators from the governing parties abstained from voting in the Senate committee while the Senators from the League voted for the trial to take place. 

The committee vote comes at a crucial moment. Key regional elections that could threaten the survival of the 4-month-old coalition of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the centre-left Democratic Party are scheduled for January 26 in Emilia Romagna, a region governed by left-wing parties. A movement called the „Sardines”, set up in Emilia Romagna to counter Salvini’s growing popularity in the region, is calling for people to take to the streets.

One of the founders of the „Sardines”, Mattia Santori had this to say on the matter: "I believe that in this moment communication is hostage to a nationalist strategy that plays very dirty and to which it is difficult to respond. But with innovation, with creativity, and with very simple forms we have shown, at least in these two months, that we can make an audience, that we can create consensus and that we can attract people and bring them to the squares."

If found guilty of illegally detaining the migrants, Salvini could face up to 15 years in prison.