Date: Wednesday, 11 January 2023
January 11, 2023
Five more people in the Netherlands have been registered as suspects in the criminal investigation against an Eritrean human smuggler, the public prosecutor revealed in court in Zwolle on Tuesday. The Eritrean man allegedly led a notorious human smuggling gang that smuggled thousands of Africans to Europe.
Amaneul W. (39), also known as Tewelde G., was allegedly also sentenced to 18 years in prison in Ethiopia in 2020. The gang, which he allegedly led with Kidane, who was arrested in Sudan on January 1, operated very violently, according to the Public Prosecution Service (OM). Sources said that the gang gunned down 15 migrants in a hospital in a Libyan town after they broke out of a makeshift prison there, the prosecutor said.
The OM will summon the five people in the Netherlands that are now suspects in this case. They are accused of involvement in extortion here. According to the prosecutor, asylum seekers held in the Libyan town of Bani Walid were forced to call relatives in the Netherlands and were tortured while they were on the line. The Dutch family members were forced to transfer money to the people smugglers to stop the torture, according to the OM.
Co-defendant Kidane is currently in custody in the United Arab Emirates. The OM will request his extradition. “There was already an arrest warrant from the Netherlands against him,” the prosecutor said. The OM wants to try both main suspects at the same time.
According to lawyer Richard van der Weide, who is representing Amaneul W., his client says he is not the person the OM is after in this case. “He keeps saying, I’m not that W.” The suspect mentioned a different name in the hearing. “I have never used violence against anyone,” he said in court. The man only had the equivalent of 34.90 euros on him at his arrest. “If my client is this Mr. W., then he should be a millionaire. Where is all that money?” the lawyer said.
To confirm the suspect’s identity, the OM asked the Netherlands Forensics Institute (NFI) to compare the suspect’s face and voice to images of W. from Bani Walid.
Lawyer Van der Weide also raised doubts about whether a Dutch court had jurisdiction to try an Eritrean man who allegedly committed crimes outside the European Union. The Zwolle court believes it can handle this case for the time being. The next introductory hearing will happen on April 6.