Former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was tried in Sicily, accused of preventing the docking of a boat of migrants in August 2019.
The right-wing politician denies the kidnapping and abandonment of the charges.
Prosecution witnesses include Hollywood actor Richard Gere, who was on board.
Salvini closed ports to lifeboats, leaving dozens of migrants rescued from the Mediterranean stranded aboard a Spanish rescue ship for three weeks in deteriorating conditions.
He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted.
On the opening day of the trial, the judge allowed all witnesses presented by both sides to testify. Among these also the former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and members of his cabinet.
But the defendant mocked the presence of Mr. Gere.
“I wonder if it’s serious that Richard Gere of Hollywood will testify about my behavior in a trial,” he told reporters outside the courtroom.
Mr. Gere had boarded the Spanish ship Open Arms before it docked after 19 days at sea on the island of Lampedusa with nearly 150 migrants on board.
Salvini said he defended his government’s “closed ports” policy aimed at preventing migrants from making the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean.
But his blockade of the ship caused a protest and a serious rift in the coalition government of the time. His League party was in a coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star, but is now an opposition MP.
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In July last year, the Senate voted to deprive him of his parliamentary immunity.
Conte had defined Salvini “obsessed” with keeping migrants out of Italian ports.
In 2019 the charity Open Arms filed a legal complaint against Salvini’s blockade on their ship, which ended on August 20.
By that time, many of the migrants had already been allowed off the ship.
On Saturday, charity founder Oscar Camps told reporters outside the trial that saving lives shouldn’t be politicized.
“Saving people at sea is not a crime, it is an obligation not only for the captain but also for all states,” he said.
The court adjourned after several hours. A further hearing has been set for December 17.
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