Alleged False Imprisonment in Italy
By Santiago Losada
Italian officials in Sicily have recently asked two high-ranking Sudanese officials to testify in a case against a man suspected to be a human trafficker who appears to have been mistakenly identified. Currently in the case, magistrates have been using various testimonies from members of the widely feared secret police in Sudan.
The secret police in Sudan is ruled by Hassan al-Bashir, who is currently facing charges of war crimes by the International Court of Justice. Sputnik News International reports that the pair of Sudanese officials were allegedly included in a joint operation between Mr. Bashir’s regime, the Italian police, and the British National Crime Agency. The three agencies are believed to be involved in the 2016 arrest in Khartoum of a 35-year-old Eritrean man who is believed to be Medhanie Yehdego Mered. He is suspected to be one of the world’s most sought-after human traffickers and is also known as “The General.”
The problem is that ever since he was arrested in Palermo, there have been serious doubts regarding the man’s identity. Since news of his arrest has spread, many of Mr. Mered’s victims claim that the wrong man is on trial.
According to The Irish Times, the victims claim that the man who was arrested looks a lot different to previous photographs that were released by police before the arrest of Mr. Mered. According to a documentary made last year by the Swedish broadcaster SVT, the real Mr. Mered is having fun partying in Uganda while the arrested suspect is, in reality, a refugee named Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe.
Another reason as to why it is believed to be a case of mistaken identity is because DNA samples were taken from Mr. Mered’s three-year-old son as well as Mr. Berhe’s mother, neither of which match. Attorneys have so far been unable to provide any witnesses to testify, but they are insisting that the man in custody is the actual human trafficker whom the agencies were looking for.
In order to prove their case, the Italian prosecutors asked the judge to admit the testimony of the two Sudanese officials who were thought to be participants in the man’s arrest and torture. This week, a judge in Palermo accepted the prosecutor’s request to include the testimonies. The Guardian reports that the testimony was accepted despite being challenged by Berhe’s lawyer, Michele Calantropo. According to him, there is a “grave ethical question” being raised as a result of using their testimony.
Using the Sudanese’s testimonies has also raised an eyebrow by organizations dedicated to human rights. Amnesty International has declared that the judge’s decision was completely unacceptable and that the use of the testimony is morally wrong, especially for a democratic country. An additional article from The Guardian reports that in New York, an investigation was published that was based on a three-hour phone interview. During the interview, Mr. Mered told people he was still at large and that he was currently in a prison in another country at the same time of Berhe’s arrest.