The Latest: Italy’s Conte: Merkel asked about rescue captain

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An Italian Coast Guard boat patrols next to the Sea-Watch 3 vessel, in the Mediterranean Sea just off the coasts of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, Thursday, June 27, 2019. Carola Rackete, the captain of the humanitarian rescue ship said that Italian law enforcement officials have told them that a resolution is near for 42 migrants rescued at sea that Italy’s populist government has so far refused to allow to disembark. (ANSA/Matteo Guidelli via AP)

ROME (AP) — The Latest on migration issues in Europe (all times local):

4:10 p.m.

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.”

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3:05 p.m.

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.

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12 p.m.

Germany’s foreign minister says the captain of a migrant rescue ship in Italian custody should be released because saving lives is a humanitarian act, not criminal.

Heiko Maas told reporters Monday he’d been in contact with Italian authorities to press the case that it is “not acceptable” to criminalize the rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean.

German citizen Carola Rackete has been in custody since Saturday when she defied Italy’s anti-migrant interior minister, Matteo Salvini, and port authorities by steering her Sea-Watch 3 ship to Lampedusa’s dock so the 40 migrants the ship rescued on June 12 could disembark.

Maas says “sea rescue is no crime, it is a humanitarian act, and therefore anything that does not lead to (her) release would cause considerable irritation.”

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10:25 a.m.

The German captain of a humanitarian migrant rescue ship is being taken in an Italian border police motorboat to a court hearing on whether she stays under house arrest.

Italian state radio said Carola Rackete was being escorted Monday from the tiny island of Lampedusa to a port in Sicily, where she will be transferred to a courtroom in the town of Agrigento.

A judge will question her in the presence of her lawyers and prosecutors.

On Saturday, Rackete’s defied Italy’s anti-migrant interior minister, Matteo Salvini, and port authorities, by steering Sea-Watch 3 to Lampedusa’s dock so 40 migrants, which the ship rescued on June 12, could disembark.

Prosecutors allege she deliberately rammed a border police boat blocking her path. Rackete’s lawyers say she didn’t intend to harm anyone.

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