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Italy to crosscheck identity of arrested human smuggler


Rome  – Italian prosecutors said on Thursday said that they would cross check the identity of a man in a major operation that led to the arrest and extradition of a migrant smuggler.

Palermo Chief Prosecutor, Francesco Voi said that some British media reports claimed that the prosecution arrested the wrong man.

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

However, the BBC and The Guardian newspaper had reported that there might have been a case of mistaken identity.

“We are carrying out the appropriate checks.

“At the moment all we can say is that the identification, arrest, handover and extradition to Italy of the fugitive was officially communicated to us by Britain’s National Crime Agency and by Sudanese authorities,” Voi said.

The suspect is being held in Rome’s Rebibbia jail and is due to face his first interrogation on Friday.

A spokesman for the National Crime Agency (NCA) in London said it was too soon to comment on media reports and referred further questions to Italian authorities.

He said that the NCA contributed to the arrest by sharing intelligence.

The suspect was believed to be 35-year-old from Eritrea.

Italian and British authorities described him as a “ruthless criminal’’ known as the General, a self-styled name referring to Libyan strongman Moamer Gaddafi.

In a statement, the NCA said that Medhane was one of the world’s most-wanted smugglers of migrants.

Italian police executive, Renato Cortese said on Wednesday while briefing the press that Medhane led a criminal network that turns over millions of euro.

The BBC report had quoted one unnamed friend of the suspect as saying that his name was Mered Tesfamariam.

Fshaye Tasfai, an Eritrean refugee in Sicily said that she was the sister of the suspect.

She had told the BBC’s Newsnight programme that her brother was completely innocent.

The Guardian, also quoting friends, named the man as Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe, and said he was a 27-year-old refugee arrested in a street in Khartoum late last month.

“It’s incredible; he’s not a human trafficker, he is from my family and lived in my father’s house.

“He left Eritrea in 2014 and went to Khartoum about a year ago. He lived with my brothers and sisters in Khartoum,’’ Tasfai said. (dpa/NAN)

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