> ANSA English > News

Accused human trafficker from deadly shipwreck on trial

Somali man faces charges of sexual violence, torture, kidnapping

28 February, 15:36
Accused human trafficker from deadly shipwreck on trial (ANSA) - Agrigento, February 28 - The trial of one Somali member of a gang blamed for overcrowding a migrant vessel that sank last October, killing 366 people, was adjourned Friday almost as quickly as it began.

Mouhamud Muhidin, 34, stands accused of being part of the criminal gang that organized the vessel that crashed on October 3 off the southern Italian coast of Lampedusa.

He faces charges of kidnapping, conspiracy to aid illegal immigration, human trafficking and sexual violence. Prosecutors are relying on testimony from seven Eritrean migrants who survived the disaster and have identified Muhidin, who was arrested in December, as one of their captors.

The survivors say they were tortured, threatened, and imprisoned by the gang that included Muhidin. All the women in the group were raped, survivors said. Authorities say Muhidin was almost lynched inside a migrants holding centre when he was recognized.

Hundreds of desperate migrants die each year trying to make the dangerous sea crossing that attracts tens of thousands annually, hoping for a new life in Europe.

Italy is usually their first point of landing as it has some of Europe's closest shores to North Africa and the Middle East.

Survivors had previously told of being taken hostage in the desert by armed men in Sebha on the border between Chad and Libya and held prisoner in a house until family members sent 3,000 dollars to pay the hostage-takers. They were tortured during their imprisonment, and said that the women were raped.

After the ransom was paid, the prisoners were allegedly taken to Tripoli in lorries and shut up in another home. Only in exchange for another 1,600 dollars were they put onto motorboats to reach the large boat that subsequently crashed and sank.