Judge rules Eritrean ‘people smuggler’ must stay in jail

A judge in Palermo has ruled that an Eritrean man extradited to Italy from Sudan last week, on suspicion of being the head of a migrant trafficking ring, must stay in jail.

Judge rules Eritrean 'people smuggler' must stay in jail
(L) An image of Medhanie Hedego Mered previously issued by the NCA and the one, claiming to be him, released by the Italian police last week.

The man is thought to be Medhanie Yedhego Mered, a 35-year-old accused of shipping thousands of people to Europe and sending some to their deaths in the Mediterranean.

But within hours of his extradition to Italy on June 6th, reports emerged claiming that he was the victim of a case of mistaken identity.

Family and friends of the man pictured arriving in Rome claimed he was Mered Tesfamariam, a refugee. Tesfamariam also told investigators on Friday that he is not the man they want.

Read more: Eritrean held in Italy denies being trafficking kingpin

Italian and British authorities, which assisted Italy in the migrant trafficking probe, said they were investigating the claims.

The Palermo judge ruled on Tuesday that the man in custody must remain in jail as there is no evidence to suggest that he isn’t Mered, dubbed 'the general' for his control over a vast area and number of 'troops', and described as “cynical and unscrupulous”.

Meanwhile, prosecutors have said that while the man in custody may not be Mered, they believe he is involved in human trafficking. He has also admitted to making calls to Libyan people smugglers, prosecutor Maurizio Scalia said on Friday.


‘Jihadist’ headed Italy trafficking gang: police

Italian authorities said on Friday they had broken up a people trafficking gang based near Naples headed by a Tunisian national they suspect of jihadist links.

'Jihadist' headed Italy trafficking gang: police
Photo: Raffaele Esposito

The alleged gang leader's suspected backing for radical Islamism was uncovered during an investigation into the group's provision of false job contracts from local textile factories to enable illegal immigrants from North Africa to obtain work permits, a statement from the ROS police special operations unit said.

Arrest warrants have been issued for eight suspects. They included the Tunisian, who was said to have become radicalized in the last year and to have praised the recent terror attacks on Paris on social media.

Further details of the operation were to be released at a press conference later Friday.

It came against a backdrop of mounting concern about the possibility of Italy being hit by “lone wolf” terror attacks of the kind seen in neighbouring France, Belgium and Britain.

Recent weeks have seen a string of suspected Islamists expelled from the country on the order of Interior Minister Angelino Alfano.

Most of the orders, which are not subject to appeal within Italy, have been issued on the basis of the suspects having expressed support for radical Islamist ideas rather than any evidence of them actively planning to act on them.

Among those expelled was Aftab Farook, a young Pakistani who previously captained Italy's under-19 cricket team.

Farook's family say his expulsion breached his rights and are planning to challenge it via the European Court of Human Rights.

Italy's centre-left government meanwhile is considering appointing a commission of experts to draw up proposals for combating radicalisation in the country's Muslim population.

The panel, proposed by junior security minister Marco Minniti, would report directly to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

It would notably be tasked with setting guidelines for the profiling of potential suspects and parameters for monitoring mosques, workplaces and schools subject to possible infiltration by radical elements, La Stampa reported.