The Italian senate was voting along party lines yesterday to allow former interior minister Matteo Salvini to be prosecuted - as he demands to be - for allegedly holding migrants hostage aboard a coast guard ship instead of letting them get off in Sicily.
Mr Salvini, a senator and right-wing party leader, says losing his legal immunity, facing kidnapping charges and being put on trial would be tantamount to defending Italy from migrants who enter the country illegally.
"I want to be proud of what I did, with my head held high," Mr Salvini said while fellow senators debated his fate.
"Our constitution says that protecting our homeland is a holy duty for Italian citizens."
The results of electronic voting were not immediately announced as senators have the opportunity to announce their votes verbally later. But based on party lines laid out in the pre-vote debate, the Senate decided in favour of letting Mr Salvini face prosecution.
As interior minister, Mr Salvini launched a crackdown on unauthorised migration, blaming migrants for crime and other problems.
His policies, which included denying migrant rescue ships access to Italian ports, brought his eurosceptic League party support at home and criticism abroad.
Opinion surveys make Mr Salvini one of Italy's most popular leaders. However, a criminal case could derail his ambitions to put the League back in power and become Italy's premier - conviction carries a prison sentence of six months to 15 years.
He professed confidence in the "neutrality" of magistrates "because I believe that what I have done was in the interest of the Italian people".