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Migrant rescue sea captain to appear in Italian court

Carola Rackete, the 31-year-old Sea-Watch 3 captain is seen arriving at the Finance police headquarters in Lampedusa REUTERS

The German captain of the Sea Watch 3 humanitarian vessel is to appear in court in Italy this Monday accused of aiding illegal immigration and colliding with an Italian police boat as she attempted to bring migrants from Libya ashore following their rescue on the Mediterranean Sea.  

Update 14h10UT

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says he has told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the fate of the migrant rescue ship's captain is in hands of his country's justice system.

Conte told journalists in Brussels that Merkel inquired about Carola Rackete, who docked the humanitarian ship Sea-Watch 3 at an Italian island without permission to disembark the 40 rescued migrants on boar.

Sea-Watch 3 rammed an Italian police boat blocking the dock Saturday. Anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has taken a tough stance on humanitarian rescue boats bringing migrants to Italy.

Conte said he told Merkel that as in Germany, Italy's executive branch is "distinct from the judiciary power" and that Rackete's fate "is in the hands of the magistrates' office."

Update 13h05UT 

The German captain of a humanitarian rescue boat has arrived in Sicily for a court hearing on whether she should stay under house arrest.

Carola Rackete waved to supporters after she stepped off an Italian border police motorboat at Porto Empedocle. Police then whisked her to Agrigento, Sicily, where a judge later Monday will question her. On Saturday her ship Sea Watch-3 struck a police boat while docking at Lampedusa, an Italian island in the Mediterranean, to disembark 40 rescued migrants.

Italy's anti-migrant minister, Matteo Salvini, had denied permission for the ship to dock or disembark the migrants.

Through her lawyers, Rackete has denied wrongdoing, saying the migrants desperately needed to go ashore after 17 days at sea, following Sea-Watch 3's rescue of them.

31-year-old captain Carola Rackete was arrested following a two week standoff with police after she attempted to illegally dock her boat in the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, after rescuing migrants off the coast of Libya.

Rackete is accused of abetting illegal Immigration and forcing her way past a police speedboat, which allegedly risked the lives of the crew on board.

If convicted, she could serve up to 10 years in prison for her actions against the Italian police.

The German-born captain saved 53 migrants last month on 12 June who were attempting the crossing , however, she was confronted by the Italian authorities after she was found to be breaking Italy’s ‘closed port’ policy.

A migrant waits to disembark from the Sea-Watch 3 as the rescue ship docks in Lampedusa REUTERS

Sea Watch claim police deliberately set up incident

Sea-watch, the German charity that funds the rescue vessel, has accused the Italian police of causing the incident at the port, claiming that the Italian police intentionally sailed into the narrowing gap between Rackete’s ship and the pier on Saturday.

In a statement the charity said, “Captain Rackete performed all manoeuvres very slowly, in a non-confrontational manner so as to give the GdF (Italian financial police) boat plenty of time to get away from its position between the Sea-Watch 3 and the pier.

“Clearly the GdF crew decided to continue their obstructive action and try to hinder the far bigger and more sluggish ship in its attempt to dock.”

Carola Rackete, the 31-year-old Sea-Watch 3 captain, is seen onboard the ship as it docks in Lampedusa REUTERS

Salvini calls Rackete's actions "act of war"

Far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has described Rackete’s actions as an ‘act of war’ and has reportedly prepared an order to expel her from the country.

In an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Sunday, Rackete said that “It was not an act of violence, but only one of disobedience.

My intention was not to put anyone in danger, I already apologized and I reiterate my apology” she added.

After Saturday's incident in which no one was hurt, migrants were allowed to disembark at Lampedusa and are being held in a reception centre. 

They are expected be sent to either France, Germany, Finland, Luxembourg or Portugal.