The Senate on Wednesday voted to allow prosecutors to proceed against League leader Matteo Salvini for allegedly illegally detaining a group of migrants when he was interior minister in a previous government.
The result of the vote was due to be formally announced around 1800 GMT but a Reuters tally as the count progressed showed a majority in favor of removing the legal protection that had shielded Salvini as a former cabinet minister.
The case regards Salvini's decision to not allow more than 100 rescued migrants to disembark from the Gregoretti Coast Guard ship for several days during a long standoff in July.
A court in Sicily recommended that former interior minister Salvini stand trial for blocking migrants from disembarking from a coast guard boat last July.
The Salvini-led centre-right bloc lost a regional ballot last month in the wealthy Emilia Romagna region, a leftist stronghold, dashing his hopes of a historic triumph that could have triggered the downfall of Italy's fragile coalition government.
During Salvini's tenure, the ex-minister made incendiary speeches and statements about the migrant arrivals each time before an European Union burden-sharing deal was reached.
Salvini said that "Liverpool is a handsome city" and added that he wanted to visit, before inviting Rotheram to visit Milan "to eat osso buco or polenta". But under Italian law, former ministers can not be tried for actions undertaken while in office unless parliament authorizes the investigation.
However, the head of the populist League party said that he defended Italy when he blocked the entrance of this, and other, boats to the Italian ports.
Mr Salvini went as far as to compare himself to US President Donald Trump, who was impeached in December and accused opponents of undermining his electoral success through the courts. "I have full and total faith in the justice system", Salvini said after the vote.
He added: 'I am absolutely calm and proud of what I have done. Did minister Salvini act in the national interest?
In March 2019, when Salvini was still interior minister and his party in government, the Senate immunity commission voted against lifting his immunity in still another case involving migrants held aboard a different Italian coast guard vessel.
Some migrants in need of urgent medical care were taken from the coastguard vessel but 116 of them remained trapped on board for nearly a week.