Prosecutors in Sicily have demanded an eighteen-year jail sentence for a man accused of captaining an overloaded migrant boat that sank in April.
Mohammed Ali Malek’s lawyer said his client was not the boat’s captain and paid for passage like everybody else.
“My client is accused of international people smuggling, multiple manslaughter and shipwreck. The 18-year penalty is what we expected. But now it is our turn,” said Massimo Ferrante, a defence lawyer.
The defence will present their arguments in hearings set for July and October.
Up to eight hundred people were killed in the disaster and hundreds of bodies are still trapped in the hull of the sunken fishing boat.
According to EU’s law enforcement body Europol, human smugglers made a record profit last year of between $3 billion and $6 billion by exploiting the misery of refugees.
Human smuggling is now among top criminal enterprises in Europe. A recent Europol research also revealed that 90 per cent of asylum-seekers, refugees and economic migrants had paid a criminal gang to reach Europe.
With the closing of land routes in the Balkans and a recent deal under which Greece sends migrants back to Turkey, Italian officials expect more to try to make the longer and much more dangerous crossing from Libya.