Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Italian interior minister and senator Matteo Salvini could lose his legal immunity if his own party decides Monday he should face trial on kidnapping charges.
The kidnapping accusations stem from an order Salvini gave in August to hold 150 migrants aboard an Italian coast guard ship for five days. His party, the League, is part of the populist Five Star Movement, an anti-establishment group that seeks to root out corruption in Italy.
The Five Star Movement was set for an online vote among members Monday to see if Salvini should stand trial. Italy's full Senate would have to vote to lift his immunity, as his position exempts him from prosecution.
The Five Star Movement has asked its members to support Salvini, saying his actions were signed off by the government collectively.
"It is an unprecedented case because never in the past has the judiciary asked parliament to authorize a trial for a minister who had acted in the performance of his duties," the group posted on its website.
Salvini has defended himself against the potential charges and has even seen his popularity rise despite the controversy.
"They can do whatever they want," Salvini said, referring to his party. "What I did, I did to defend the safety of citizens, and if necessary I'd do it again."
The online poll asks if Salvini was justified in the decision last summer. A "no" vote favors prosecuting Salvini while a "yes" vote rejects a trial.
The ship was docked at the Catania port for five days while Salvini sought help from other European Union countries who could take in the mostly Eritrean passengers. Eventually, the Catholic church, Ireland and Albania agreed to receive the migrants.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Five Star transport minister Danilo Toninelli were also put under investigation this week for rejecting the migrants.