Italy frees man wrongly extradited for people smuggling

Medhanie Tesfamariam BehreImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionMedhanie Tesfamariam Behre reacting to the verdict in Palermo

An Italian court has ruled that an Eritrean man extradited to the country for people smuggling was the victim of mistaken identity.

Medhanie Tesfamariam Behre was mistaken for the alleged trafficking kingpin Mered Medhanie – known as The General.

He has spent the past three years in prison insisting he was not who prosecutors said he was.

On Friday the court admitted its error, although it gave Behre a five-year sentence for aiding people smuggling.

He was however allowed to walk free because of the time he had already spent behind bars.

“After three years finally the judge confirmed what we have been saying: we had a farmer in jail and a smuggler at large,” Behre’s lawyer Michele Calantropo told the Guardian.

Mr Calantropo said his client would appeal against his conviction for people smuggling. He added Behre – a dairy farm worker and occasional carpenter, according to his family – had applied for asylum in Italy.

British and Italian investigators had worked together to capture Behre, insisting he was at the heart of efforts to smuggle migrants from Africa to Europe.

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