The Palermo Court of Appeals confirmed the 30-year sentence of Somali migrant smuggler Mouhamud Elmi Muhidin Friday, found guilty of human trafficking, criminal racketeering aimed at illegal immigration and sexual violence.
Muhidin was the captain of a vessel loaded with migrants that sank off the coast of Lampedusa in October 2013. The wreck took the lives of at least 366 people.
After the shipwreck, the 24-year-old Muhidin had to be saved by police from the hands of a number of surviving migrants who recognized the predator and attempted to lynch him at the Lampedusa migrant reception center.
Testimony at Muhidin’s trial revealed a pattern of brutality, torture and rape especially targeting Christians.
One of the survivors, the 35-year-old Alay Bahta, told the court that during the voyage, Muhidin, armed with a pistol, repeatedly beat the passengers with truncheons. “One day after having poured buckets of water over us and flooded the floor, he took a live wire and placed it on the floor, administering an electric shock,” Bahta said. “They mocked us and told us as they laughed that if we died they were happy because we were just Christians, inferior beings to Muslims.”
The 155 survivors of the overland trek through the Sahara and across the Mediterranean from Libya told police at the time that all the female passengers from Eritrea, Somalia and Syria had been raped by the smugglers during the voyage.
“The women in our group all suffered sexual violence, including my sister,” said Bahta, noting that Muhadin was among those committing the rapes.
Fanos Okba, who was 18 years old at the time, testified that she had been the subject of kidnapping and sexual assault by Muhadin.
“One night I was separated from my group and forced by the Somali and two of his men to go outside. After they threw me to the ground, they tied my arms and gagged me, and then poured petrol on my head, provoking a strong burning sensation in my scalp, the skin of the face and my eyes. Not satisfied with this, the three took turns abusing me.”
“All twenty girls who were abducted were subjected to sexual violence, she said.
At the trial, Bahta, whose sister was one of those who died in the shipwreck, admitted he would have sought revenge against Muhidin, whose face he never forgot.
“I prayed to God day and night to let me meet him again in this life and make him pay,” he said.
After Friday’s hearing, Giusi Nicolini, the mayor of Lampedusa, said she was satisfied that justice had been done. “The confirmation of the verdict does justice at least to the cruelty shown by Muhidin toward the young Eritreans seized in the desert, the torture of the men and the rapes committed against the women,” she said.
The ruling also confirmed a provisional award of twenty thousand euro to the Municipality of Lampedusa and Linosa.
The police and Italy’s financial police also arrested three more suspected human smugglers this week who arrived in Palermo Wednesday along with 900 migrants on the Norwegian ship “Siem Pilot.”
Two of the men are Senegalese and the third from Gambia, and all have been charged with aiding illegal immigration and illegal entry in the State.
The traffickers reportedly charged each migrant between 1,200 and 3,500 euros to make the passage.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome