Six men linked to the tragic migrant sea crossing that ended at Lampedusa island more than two years ago with 366 dead were on Monday convicted in Italy‘s first-ever ruling against members of a human smuggling cartel.
The shipwreck on October 3, 2013, was at the time the deadliest in recent Mediterranean history. It was met with shock throughout Europe and led Italy to launch a naval rescue mission to prevent migrant deaths at sea.
The defendants, all from Eritrea, received jail terms ranging from two years to six years and four months from judge Angela Gerardi, following a fast-track trial in Palermo, Sicily, the ANSA news agency said.
One, jailed for five years, was granted a more lenient sentence for cooperating with the authorities on the investigation.
A verdict was not issued against three more suspects believed to be hiding in Libya – including the alleged mastermind of Libya-Italy migrant crossings, Ermis Ghermay – because of their fugitive status, ANSA said.
Another leading Eritrean people-trafficker, who had been on the run since April, was extradited from Germany to Italy on Saturday. Italian police said he had applied for asylum there, after helping “many” migrants travel illegally from Italy to northern Europe.
Italy Delivers Landmark Sentence Against Migrant Traffickers
Probe used evidence from defendant turned state’s witness
(ANSA) – A Palermo judge on Monday sentenced six Africans to prison sentences ranging from two to six years four months for human trafficking. This is the first conviction in Italy that recognizes the existence of a racketeering organization that traffics human beings.
The sentence came in a fast-track trial, which in Italy means the ruling can’t be appealed, but sentences are reduced by a third if the defendants are found guilty.
The six defendants, all Eritrean nationals, formed the cell of the organisation that managed the stay in Italy of migrants arriving from Libya and their passage to other European countries.
One, Nuredin Atta, turned state’s evidence and his testimony reportedly helped prosecutors sew up the case, as well as feeding into other similar investigations. Proceedings have been suspended against a further three people thought to be at the head of the organisation on grounds they could not be traced.
The trial grew out of the so-called Glauco investigation that began after the Lampedusa shipwreck of October 3, 2013, in which 366 migrants and refugees lost their lives.
Survivors’ reports enabled investigators to identify the traffickers.