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(OSSERVATORIO DIRITTI) The General: the absurd story of Medhanie Berhe in Lorenzo Tondo's book

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Tuesday, 05 March 2019


The General: the absurd story of Medhanie Berhe in Lorenzo Tondo's book

The General is the book-investigation of Lorenzo Tondo published by La Nave di Teseo on a 30-year-old Eritrean boy in prison on suspicion of being one of the most important traffickers of men between Libya and Italy, Medhanie Yedhedgo Mered, known as "the General ", in fact. For Tondo it is a resounding case of exchange of person

Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe , a 30-year-old Eritrean shepherd, has been a protagonist of a dreadful version of The Trial , one of Franz Kafka's most famous novels , for two and a half years . Like Josef K , in June 2016, Berhe suddenly found himself in uniformed men knocking on his door, in the district of Khartoum , the capital of Sudan , where he had fled to avoid compulsory military service in Eritrea .

They were Sudanese police officers who collaborated with the National crime agency (NCA) , a sort of British FBI , who accused him of being one of the most important traffickers of men in the years between 2014 and 2015: Medhanie Yedhedgo Mered, said the General . From the beginning he always professed his innocence, saying that in common with that man he only had the name of baptism.

the general medhanie behreMedhanie Tesfamariam Berhe - Photo taken from her Facebook profile

"That man is not Mered, the General"

When that boy came down the stairs of the plane that took him to Fiumicino, at the editorial office of The Guardian the phones began to ring, while the email boxes became increasingly clogged. They were migrants and victims of trafficking who had met Mered, the General.

"They arrested the wrong man." "That boy is an innocent man."

It was sent to Italy because the magistrates of Palermo were holding the main file of the most important investigation on human trafficking : Glaucus.
A lot of messages have been sent to support the boy 's extraneousness to the Guardian. Instead of ignoring them, on their escort, British journalists contacted Lorenzo Tondo , the British newspaper correspondent in Sicily, to inform him. Thus began an investigation that has not yet ended.

The General: the doubts of Lorenzo Tondo in the book published by La Nave di Teseo

The General is the book-investigation, published by La Nave di Teseo , in which Lorenzo Tondo retraces his obsessive search for a solution to the puzzle about the identity of the prisoner on whom he is charged with being the general . Because, as he says, at first he could not believe it either.

Only after the call from colleagues from London did the first doubt crept into his mind . A doubt that gave a reason to the feeling that had caught the comparison between the identifying photo in the hands of Italian investigators and the face of that young boy and disheveled, with the air lost, transmitted by the news .

At first glance, the physiognomy was very different from that of the man they expected. Only to formulate such an illusion aloud, however, would have cost him every source in the corridors of the power of attorney. But yet. Thus an obstinate and contrary inquiry was born , which then gave rise to the book Il Generale.

the generalEritrean identity card of the man currently detained as the trafficker Mered, one of the elements that would prove the error of identification

The General, a book of solitudes

The General is a book made of solitudes . That of the journalist , who, especially at the beginning, feels the only one who believes in the exchange of person. That of the lawyer Michele Calantropo , the man who by all means is continuing to defend his client to guarantee him the freedom he deserves. That of the boy in prison , who shreds the days like a rosary, waiting for an answer to his why, shouted by the eyes with which he observes, astonished and silent, the court that must judge him. And finally, that of the pm Gery Ferrara , with his cigar hanging from the mouth, as Tondo always describes it.

Perhaps despite himself, the prosecutor is barricaded in power of attorney without even being able to provide his version of the facts, engaged in a trial for which he plays not only his career, but all the immense investigative effort that led to the creation of new collaborations for the famous "fight against the traffickers of men" .

The General faithfully reconstructs the facts occurring both in the classroom and out since June 2016. The facts are often told in first person because it is a partisan book. It is a book that expresses - from the first page - its verdict , at least in terms of journalistic truth. Because even the proverbial equidistance of British journalism wobbles in the face of such a story. So the book imagines what Berhe wanted to say to the Court , as he wanted to challenge it, to finally conquer his freedom .

the general lampedusaThe Gate of Europe in Lampedusa (photo by Carlo Alfredo Clerici, via Flickr )

The General is in hiding in Uganda

In the book there is then the hunt for the real General , the trafficker who while arresting Berhe was detained, for other reasons, in Dubai, where he has his current accounts. The journalist chases him first in time, in his biography, in search of the fortuitous intersections that have provoked this incredible exchange of person. Then in space, for Africa : together with colleagues from Swedish public TV Svt. And it finds traces in Uganda , where Medhanie Yedhego Mered drowned at the bottom of a glass the senses of blows of the many deaths left in the Mediterranean.

The book closes , as in a circle, on October 3, 2018. The fifth anniversary of the Lampedusa massacre , the event that changed European history in the fight against the traffickers of men. A very complicated challenge, which has not yet produced the desired results.

the generalThe baptismal certificate of Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe


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