Italy trying wrong man: Eritrean people-trafficking ‘kingpin’

Rome, Nov 23 (IANS/AKI) An Eritrean suspected of heading of a major migrant smuggling organisation has written on Facebook that he remains at large and that Italy is trying an innocent man in his place, according to a media report.

Medhanie Yehdego Mered made the claims in private Facebook messages written in the Tigrinya language that were seen by Britain’s Guardian newspaper, the daily said on Tuesday.

“They made a mistake with his name — but everyone knows he is not a smuggler Â… I hope he will be released because he has not done anything. They cannot do anything to him,” Mered wrote.

The messages add to photographic and documental evidence and numerous witness statements suggesting that the man on trial is not 35-year-old Mered but Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe, a 29-year-old ex-dairy worker.

The case risks becoming a major embarrassment for both Italian and British police, who announced in early June that they had tracked down and arrested Mered at a hideout in the Sudanese capital Khartoum in late May and extradited him to Europe on charges of human trafficking and abetting illegal immigration.

Italy has jurisdiction in the case because it was the first point of arrival in Europe for most of the many thousands of migrants allegedly trafficked from Africa by Mered.