Italy ar­rests Ghana­ian man ac­cused of traf­fick­ing, tor­tur­ing mi­grants

Some re­port be­ing raped, elec­tro­cuted, scalded and beaten

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY GAVIN JONES

rome — Ital­ian po­lice ar­rested a Ghana­ian man on charges of mur­der, rape, kid­nap­ping and peo­plesmug­gling af­ter mi­grants that he is ac­cused of mis­treat­ing at­tacked him at a re­cep­tion cen­ter on the Mediter­ranean is­land of Lampe­dusa.

Ac­cord­ing to the ar­rest war­rant, the African mi­grants turned on 20-year-old Sam Eric Ackom, known to his as­sailants as Fanti, when they rec­og­nized him as one of a gang that had kid­napped and tor­tured them in Libya dur­ing their pas­sage to Italy.

The war­rant, is­sued to po­lice in the Si­cil­ian city of Agri­gento, il­lus­trates the plight of thou­sands of mi­grants flee­ing war and poverty who in­creas­ingly fall vic­tim to crim­i­nal gangs op­er­at­ing in law­less Libya.

Boat mi­grant ar­rivals in Italy are up more than 57 per­cent from the same pe­riod last year, ac­cord­ing to Ital­ian In­te­rior Min­istry fig­ures this month, with about half a mil­lion ar­riv­ing since 2014.

Those who have ar­rived this year have told of in­creas­ing vi­o­lence and bru­tal­ity in Libya, where ri­val fac­tions bat­tle for power and peo­ple smug­glers op­er­ate with im­punity amid the chaos left by the 2011 over­throw of long­time ruler Moam­mar Gaddafi.

The 27-page ar­rest war­rant contains tes­ti­mony by nu­mer­ous mi­grants of the treat­ment they re­ceived af­ter be­ing kid­napped by Ackom and other gang mem­bers, in­clud­ing rape, scald­ing with boil­ing wa­ter and beat­ings.

The mi­grants — from Ivory Coast, Guinea and Nigeria — said they were held in a guarded com­pound in the Libyan desert where they were threat­ened with guns and forced to tele­phone rel­a­tives to re­quest money while they were be­ing tor­tured.

“Ev­ery time I had to call home, Fanti tied me up with my feet in the air . . . and beat me with a rub­ber tube in ev­ery part of my body, es­pe­cially the soles of my feet,” said Ivo­rian Vadro Diomande.

Sev­eral mi­grants said they were tor­tured with elec­tric shocks and one, Nige­rian Efosa Ide­hen, said Ackom, was “one of the most ter­ri­ble” of the cap­tors, often elec­tro­cut­ing him by at­tach­ing elec­trodes to his tongue.

Ackom, now in prison, ar­rived in Lampe­dusa on March 5 af­ter a res­cue ship col­lected him and a group of mi­grants when the rub­ber dinghy they were trav­el­ing in ran into trou­ble in the Strait of Si­cily.

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