Mistaken identity?: People smuggling suspect insists they’ve got the wrong man

A suspect accused of being the head of a major migrant trafficking ring has told investigators they have got the wrong man. Medhanie Tesfarmariam Berhe has been questioned in Italy after being extradited from Sudan. His lawyer, Michele Calantropo, said her client denied any link to people smuggling when he was questioned by Italian magistrates. Now, he is waiting to hear if he will be released while his true identity is confirmed.

He denied being the suspect and also denied being linked in any way to a trafficking network

Lawyer Michele Calantropo

The apparent mix-up occurred when investigators swooped in Khartoum, thinking they had nabbed Medhanie Yehdego Mered who is suspected of shipping thousands of people to Europe across the Mediterranean. Mered, dubbed The General, has also been linked to the deaths of 359 migrants who drowned when their boat sank off the Italian coast in October 2013. But when photographs of the arrested man were published, friends and family stepped forward to claim he was an unemployed Eritrean migrant. “I know this man since he arrived in Sudan in 2014. The person who has been taken to Rome is not The General. The man taken to Rome doesn’t even speak Arabic,” said Eritrean Tasfie Haggose, 38.

This man used to move freely among people, which is not how the general behaves. The General has no house in Khartoum. He moves between Sudan, Ethiopia, Libya, and between Khartoum and eastern Sudan.

Eritrean Barhi Kobron, 28