The Latest: Italian court rules mistaken identity, frees man
ROME (AP) — The Latest on a migrant smuggling trial in Italy (all times local): 3:30 p.m. A court in Sicily has ruled that the wrong Eritrean man was put on trial as an alleged migrant smuggling kingpin, and ordered him freed.
Lawyer Michele Calantropo said his client, Medhanie Tesfamariam Behre "cried for joy" when he heard the ruling in a Palermo courtroom Friday afternoon. Prosecutors had alleged that the defendant was Medhane Yehdego Mered. But as soon as Behre was extradited to Italy in 2016, his claims of mistaken identity gained international support.
Calantropo said the court did convict Behre of a lesser crime, aiding clandestine immigration, but not trafficking, because the investigation had determined Behre helped two cousins migrate to Italy. Behre received a five-year sentence on the lesser charge but is unlikely to have to serve out the rest of his sentence.
A court in Sicily is deliberating the fate of alleged migrants smugglers, including an Eritrean who claims his is a case of mistaken ID.
The defendant's lawyer, Michele Calantropo, said Friday it was unclear when the court might announce a verdict. Prosecutors insist his client is Medhane Yehdego Mered, an alleged human trafficking kingpin.
Calantropo contends the defendant's identity is Medhanie Tesfamariam Behre and that he's innocent. The man was arrested in Sudan and extradited to Italy in 2016.