Dozens of asylum-seekers on a boat that sank near the Italian coast last month with the loss of 366 lives were raped and tortured in Libya before starting their journey, the police said yesterday.
A group of 130 migrants from Eritrea were held for ransom in the desert, according to testimony from survivors that led to the arrest of a Somali man in Italy accused of being one of the traffickers.
The Somali, Libyan militiamen, and Sudanese traffickers all took part in the alleged assaults in a detention centre in Sabha — an oasis in the desert in southwest Libya — that prosecutor Maurizio Scalia likened to “a concentration camp”.
“They forced us to watch our men being tortured with various methods including batons, electric shocks to the feet. Whoever rebelled was tied up,” read the testimony of a 17-year-old Eritrean girl in the investigation, La Repubblica daily reported.
The migrants were forced to pay up to €2,600 for their freedom and their journey to the Libyan coast and a boat to Italy.
“The women who could not pay were assaulted,” the girl was quoted as saying in her criminal charge.
She also described in horrific detail her own sexual assault, saying that the Somali man — named by police as 34-year-old Elmi Mouhamud Muhidin — was one of the three men who raped her.
“They threw me on the ground, held me down and poured fuel on my head,” she said. “It burnt my hair, then my face, then my eyes. Then the three of them raped me without protection. After a quarter of an hour I was beaten and taken back to the house.”
Scalia said simply: “All the women in that centre were raped by Somalis and Libyans. It was like a concentration camp.”
The Somali was arrested on the remote Italian island of Lampedusa where the Oct 3 shipwreck happened and faces up to 30 years in prison.
Another man, 35-year-old Tunisian captain Khaled Bensalam, was detained immediately after the tragedy on manslaughter charges. A third man, 47-year-old Palestinian Attour Abdalmenem, has also been arrested on people trafficking charges.
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