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(TP) A human trafficker has been arrested, but the man in prison is not the right one

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Thursday, 10 May 2018

A human trafficker has been arrested, but the man in prison is not the right one

Swedish TV SVT and Guardian journalists have found that the man in prison in Italy on charges of migrant smuggling is not the real trafficker and a new DNA test has confirmed the exchange of identity

guardian trafficker uganda
The Palermo prosecutor states that the man arrested is Medhanie Yehdego Mered. The Guardian denies. CREDIT: Getty images

A Swedish public TV documentary SVT,  produced in collaboration with some journalists from the British Guardian,  has revealed that human trafficker Medhanie Yehdego Mered, who is believed to be held in an Italian prison, is actually living free in Uganda.

The thesis supported by the Guardian was confirmed by the DNA test requested by Michele Calantropo, the lawyer of Medhanie Tesfamariam Behre, the man in prison instead of the real human trafficker.

The test was performed thanks to the saliva samples of Mered's 3-year-old son, who lives in Sweden.

The results confirmed that the man detained in Italy is not the famous trafficker, as they continue to support the judges of Palermo.

The story

In July 2016 the Palermo judges announced the capture of the man in Sudan and the following extradition to Italy thanks to the collaboration of the British Foreign Ministry and the National Agency against Crime.

The trafficker, known as "the General", was never actually arrested by European police, as reported by Guardian journalists .

In his place, a 29-year-old refugee was extradited to Italy, Medhanie Tesfamariam Behre. The boy is still in prison in Italy on charges of trafficking in human beings.

The European police know that the real trafficker is still at liberty, but has failed to convince Italian judges to request a new arrest warrant, as reported in the documents collected by Swedish TV SVT.

The reporter Ali Fegan and the Eritrean journalist and activist Meron Estefanos collected testimonies from Ugandan and Eritrean citizens who saw and met Medhanie Yehdego Mered in the capital of Uganda, Kampala.

Before going to the Ugandan city, the reporters identified all the places where the trafficker had been seen. Given the delicacy of their work, Fegan and Estefanos used a hidden camera and were able to document "many testimonies of people claiming that [Mered] lives there".

The investigation on Medhanie began after the sinking of a boat on October 3, 2013 near the island of Lampedusa. 368 migrants had died in the shipwreck.

During the investigation, more than 20 thousand calls were intercepted and listened to and in June 2016 the Palermo judges announced the capture of the trafficker, describing it as "the arrest of the year".

From the beginning, however, doubts have been raised about the identity of the accused. Many of Mered's victims said that the man in prison was not the right one.

In reality it is an Eritrean refugee, as declared by the man's family.

Also some Eritrean employees of an NGO based in Kampala confirm that the real trafficker lives in the Ugandan capital, according to the investigations they themselves carried out. The Guardian journalists report it .

The British newspaper reporters asked some people who had met Mered because they had not reported him.

"For many Eritreans [Mered] is a necessity. It's an unpleasant situation, but it helps them escape from worse conditions living at home, "one of the interviewees answered.

Others have not reported the man for fear of retaliation and because they consider him too rich and influential to be arrested.

Mered's wife lives in Sweden and has repeatedly confirmed to the European authorities that the man arrested in Italy is not her husband. According to Swedish TV SVT , the Swedish police were aware of the mistake for 18 months.

Behre's mother, still in prison in Italy on charges of trafficking in human beings, went to Palermo in October 2017 for a DNA test.

The examination confirmed that the man detained in Italy is not "the General", as reported by the Guardian .

May 10, 2018

In jail for two years for trafficking in men: "DNA exonerates him"

The Eritrean citizen captured in 2016 and accused of being the international criminal Medhanie Yehdego Mered claims to be Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe. And now the genetic comparison with the son of the true wanted could be proof that he is unjustly imprisoned.

Shortly after the disclosure of his photographs, friends and relatives had told the authorities of the supposed exchange of person, claiming that the person in the cell was actually Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe, an Eritrean refugee. In these two years, evidence presented by Berhe's family and Mered's wife, Lidya Tesfu, have reinforced the suspicion that at the moment there is an innocent man behind bars.

CROSSED DNA TEST. In April, Berhe's lawyer went to Sweden, where Tesfu lives with Mered's son, Raei Yehdego Mered. The cross-examination of the Dna of the detained person and of Raei Yehdego has shown that the two do not have kinship relationships. Despite the latest evidence presented, Italian investigators continue to insist that they have the men's trafficker in custody.


The DNA of the son of one of the most sought-after men in the world shows that the man who spent almost two years in an Italian prison awaiting trial is actually the victim of an identity exchange. The Guardianknows this . The Sicilian investigators announced the capture of the Eritrean trafficker Medhanie Yehdego Mered in Khartoum in June 2016, calling it the "arrest of the year".

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