Preliminary investigations into the notorious migrant trafficking kingpin Medhanie Yehdego Mered revealed images and videos of cannibalism, dismembered bodies, murders and the sale of migrants’ organs, according to prosecutors.
Mered, nicknamed “The General,” who was arrested in Sudan last May and extradited to Italy in June, stands trial for the trafficking of thousands of illegal immigrants from Africa to Italy in exchange for millions of dollars.
Images found on the 35-year-old Eritrean’s cell phone and entered into evidence have been described as “a graveyard of horrors,” and allegedly include scenes of cannibalism and the murder of migrants unable to pay the agreed-upon fees.
Testimony from Nuredin Wehabrebi Atta, a former migrant smuggler who now cooperates with law enforcement officials, stated that in the course of the long trek across the Sahara Desert to the Libyan coast, “migrants who are unable to pay the agreed-up sums are systematically killed by criminal organizations involved in human trafficking so as to extract their organs by individuals nicknamed ‘doctors of the Sahara.’”
The organs are reportedly “taken straight to Egypt” where they are sold on the black market. According to Atta’s testimony, kidneys, for instance, are sold for 15 thousand dollars each.
Reports from Eritrean refugees suggest that Sudanese drivers carry migrants to the Libyan border, where they cram them into trucks driven by Libyan smugglers, who take them on a torturous journey across the desert into north-eastern Libya.
Intelligence obtained from Atta enabled Italian police to break up a criminal ring of migrant smugglers, arresting 38 individuals spread throughout ten different Italian provinces in early July. The suspects have been charged with association to abet illegal immigration, financial crimes, and even international drug trafficking.
On May 24, Mered was arrested in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum after a year-long manhunt, in what was touted as the most significant breakthrough to date in Europe’s fight against Africa-based migrant trafficking.
Upon his capture, Italian prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi said that Italy had seized “the boss of one of the most important criminal groups operating in central Africa and Libya.” Fellow prosecutor Calogero Ferrara said that Mered was involved in an operation that was “much larger, more complex and more structured than originally imagined.”
The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), which also took part in the investigation, said that “one of the world’s most wanted people-smugglers” had been arrested.
Mered emerged on law enforcement radar after 359 people drowned off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa in 2013, a catastrophe linked to Mered’s network.
The trafficker’s Tripoli-based smuggling network was reportedly responsible for the journeys of some 10,000 migrants in just three months in 2014, at a price of up to $915,000 per boatload. Wiretaps obtained by Italian law enforcement suggest Mered’s involvement in extracting ransom payments from the Eritrean diaspora, and also reveal him bragging of his bribes of Libyan policemen to release migrants held within detention center.
Mered now faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison if convicted.
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