An Eritrean man said to be mistaken for Medhanie Mered was captured in the month of May in Sudan. On Tuesday he was handed over to the Italian authorities.
The arrested man has been identified as Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe, a refugee; while the wanted man is a human trafficker known as Medhanie Yehdego Mered.
He is a 35-year old man, popularly known as the ‘General’.
On the arrest and extradition of Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe, his friends insisted that there was some sort of mix up. Those who knew him said there was no way he could commit the crime he was accused of.
“I don’t think he has any bone in his body which can involve such kind of things. He is a loving, friendly and kind person.”– Hermon Berhe
“It’s the wrong guy. It’s incredible- he’s not a human trafficker. He’s from my family. He lived in my father’s house. He left Eritrea in 2014, and then went to Khartoum about a year ago. He lived with my brothers and sisters in Khartoum. He didn’t have a job so we use to send him money.”– Fshaye Tasfai, Berhe’s Cousin in Sicily.
“I have almost 400 people writing to me saying: I know this guy, he grew up with me. This is the wrong person.”– Meron Estefanos, Sweden-based Eritrean broadcaster.
The authorities are in search of a people smuggling king pin who heads a large human trafficking network. He is wanted by the law to answer to the death of 359 migrants (most of whom were Eritreans and Somalis) who died in a 2013 shipwreck. The boat was smuggling them to Europe from Libya.
Medhanie Mered is believed to be at the heart of smuggling migrants from Africa to Europe. As it is, he has been named by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) as one of the world’s most wanted people smugglers.
With all of the testimonies of family, friends and acquaintances of the 27-year old Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe, the Italian and British authorities are investigating the alleged identity mix up.