ROME: Members of left-wing political party Sinistra Italiana expressed their dismay at Libyan authorities’ decision to release a man considered by the UN to be one of the country’s most wanted human traffickers.
Abd Al-Rahman Milad, known as Bija, was arrested on suspicion of being part of a criminal network operating in northwest Libya.
He was released less than four months after his arrest in Tripoli. The city’s military attorney general dropped the charges against him “for lack of evidence.”
Italian newspaper Avvenire reported that Bija and five other Libyans were placed under sanctions in 2018 by the UN Security Council for being directly involved in the sinking of migrant boats.
The newspaper reported that Bija had attended official meetings in Rome with Italian authorities during negotiations over illegal migrants. He was introduced there as “a commander of the Libyan coastguard.”
Bija’s release “is disturbing news,” Sinistra Italiana leader Nicola Fratoianni said in Italy’s Chamber of Deputies, asking the government to “clarify this obscure situation.”
He added: “This man is accused of torture and other cruel criminal acts on human beings. The relationship between Italian institutions and this man, who was freed only a few days after the visit to Tripoli of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, must be fully clarified.”
Fratoianni told Arab News: “In Libya, migrants live in inhumane and atrocious conditions, as confirmed by all international organizations. The Italian government must do something.”
Marco Minniti, Italy’s interior minister at the time of the meetings attended by Bija, has denied any wrongdoing, saying Rome was unaware of the allegations against the Libyan.
Nello Scavo, the Italian journalist who first reported for Avvenire on Bija’s presence in Italy, and Nancy Porsia, the freelance reporter who first wrote about the Libyan’s suspected criminal activities in 2016, were given police protection after receiving threats.
In recent years, the EU has partnered with Libya’s coastguard and local groups to try to halt the dangerous sea crossings via the Mediterranean to reach Italian shores.
Several NGOs, however, say those policies leave migrants at the mercy of armed groups or confined in squalid detention centers rife with abuse.
An Associated Press investigation in 2019 revealed that militias tortured, extorted and abused migrants for ransom in detention centers under the nose of UN officials, often in compounds that receive millions in European money, paid to Libya’s government to slow the tide of migrants crossing the Mediterranean.