Friday, May 25, 2018
Text Size

Site Search powered by Ajax

Eritrean extradited to Italy denies being top smuggler

Lawyer says his client is a victim of mistaken identity and denies allegations he runs a people-smuggling network.

An Eritrean man extradited from Sudan to Italy on suspicion of being the head of a human smuggling ring has told investigators they have arrested the wrong man, his lawyer said.

Lawyer Michele Calantropo said his client "denied being the suspect and also denied being linked in any way to a trafficking network", when questioned by Italian magistrates on Friday.

"He is another man ... and doesn't understand the meaning of this arrest," Calantropo said, adding that his client was a carpenter.

'Release my brother'

On Wednesday, Italian and British anti-crime agencies announced the arrest of Medhane Yehdego Mered, who was caught in Sudan and flown to Italy to face trial. 

However, when photographs of the arrested man were released after his arrival in Rome on Wednesday, family and friends said he was an Eritrean refugee named Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe.

READ MORE: Doubts over identity of 'smuggler' extradited to Italy 

"These are two different people," Meron Estefanos, the Sweden-based executive director of the Eritrean Initiative on Human Rights, said.

"If you notice the one that the Italians have, he is shorter and younger, while the real Medhane Mered is older, a 36-year-old much taller [man]. If you see the pictures close-up, it just doesn't add up."

Segem Tasfamariam Berhe also told Italian reporters she recognised her brother in the footage.

"I want to tell Italian police my brother is innocent, he is not the man they are looking for. Please, investigators, release my brother," she was quoted as saying from Sudan's capital Khartoum by Italy's Rai News.

'The general'

Italian prosecutors admitted on Thursday that they were checking the suspect's identity after reports that the arrested man was the victim of a case of mistaken identity.

Sudan's interior ministry, Italian police and Britain's National Crime Agency had made much of the arrest of Mered - dubbed "the general" - in Khartoum at the end of May and his extradition to Italy.

He is on a global wanted list since 2015 for people-smuggling, and is accused of packing refugees on to a boat that sank in 2013 off the Italian island of Lampedusa, drowning 360 people.

In recent months, Europe has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of people crossing the Mediterranean.

According to the UN's refugee agency, more than 48,500 people have arrived in Italy by boat so far this year.

More than 10,000 people have died crossing the Mediterranean to Europe since 2014.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe via RSS or Email:

Investigators: Russian missile brought down MH17 over Ukraine

Read More

Yulia Skripal: 'Assassination attempt turned my life upside down'

Read More

Italy nears populist government with mandate for PM pick Conte

Read More

French Muslim student in media storm over headscarf

Read More

Facebook's Zuckerberg grilled by EU Parliament over data scandal

Read More

Yekaterinburg mayor resigns over scrapping of elections

Read More


Over 400 luxury handbags were also seized from several apartments as part of an anti-corruption probe into state fund.

Read More


Thanks to all of our supporters for your generosity and your encouragement of an independent press!

Enter Amount:



Login reminder Forgot login?

Subscribe to MWC News Alert

Email Address

Subscribe in a reader Facebok page Twitter page

Week in Pictures

Ramadan begins

Palestinians in Gaza 'massacre'