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Italy sentences Turkish man to prison over migrant shipwreck

By AFP

February 8, 2024 12:35 PM


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An Italian court sentenced an accused smuggler involved in a shipwreck last year that killed at least 94 migrants to two decades in prison Wednesday, news reports said.

The court in the southern city of Crotone found 29-year-old Turkish national Gun Ufuk guilty of crimes including causing a shipwreck and aiding illegal immigration.

It also ordered him to pay a three million euro ($3.2 million) fine and pay damages to civil plaintiffs.

Ufuk, who has denied being in charge of the boat, was one of four alleged human traffickers on a migrant vessel that went down in stormy weather just off the coast of Calabria on February 26.

The boat, which carried about 180 migrants from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Syria, including many children, had departed Turkey but went down metres from shore.

For days after the shipwreck, bodies and debris washed up on the beaches of the area.

One suspected smuggler died in the shipwreck, while two others are facing trial.

Ufuk told the court Wednesday that he was hired to be the boat's mechanic, but was never at the helm.

"I had to flee Turkey for political reasons," he told the court, explaining how he had been jailed for criticizing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In the wake of the shipwreck, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni vowed to crack down on human traffickers, including tougher sentences and giving preferential quotas to workers from countries who help fight smugglers.

Her far-right Brothers of Italy party won elections in 2022 on a pledge to curb the arrivals of migrants by sea.


AFP


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