An Eritrean man who spent three years in prison in Italy
after being mistaken for a top migrant smuggler risks being denied
asylum and expelled, a human rights group said Wednesday.
Last week, a court in Palermo established that Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe was the victim of a mistaken identity case, and ordered his immediate release from prison. But instead of being freed, he was taken to a migrant detention centre in Caltanissetta, Sicily, where people are held ahead of their repatriation.
The ANSA news agency said this happened as a result of new anti-immigration rules spearheaded by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. "There isn't a single reason in the world [...] to deny political asylum" to Behre and stop his repatriation to Sudan, where he was arrested in 2016, Amnesty International Italy said in a statement.
According to Amnesty, Italian asylum officials are due to deliver a verdict on Behre's application on Friday. Behre was arrested three years ago after Italian and British authorities identified him as a ruthless migrant smuggler known as the "General."
On July 12, Palermo judges said police got the wrong man, but sentenced Behre to five years in prison for the lesser crime of abetting illegal immigration, for helping two cousins reach Libya. Despite the sentence, they ordered his release from custody.
In Italy, jail sentences are normally not executed if appeals against them are still possible.
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