Italy Police : Investigating Father Mussie Zerai
on Mussie Zerai, an Eritrean priest who for years lives in Italy and become a reference point for thousands of migrants in distress who are facing the journey to Europe, is among those under investigation by the Trapani Prosecutor’s Office as part of the investigation for aiding and abetting illegal immigration.
For almost 15 years, his was the only telephone number many migrants had to call for emergency assistance.The investigation lead to the seizure last week of a boat run by German NGO Jugend Rettet, which is accused of having had direct contact with traffickers off the coast of Libya.
According to reports from two witnesses, the priest who received communications from migrants boarded on the traffickers’ rafts, report the day, time and location of the boats to be rescued with members of NGOs. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015, founder and President of Habesha Information Agency, called it “migrant rescue”, have been served with a notice from Trapani prosecutor team. “I received a letter from the Trapani public prosecutor’s office on Monday informing me of the investigation,” Mussie Zerai said,insisting that he was innocent.
> ALSO READ : Italian Prosecutor Accuses NGOs of Colluding with Human Traffickers in Libya “I received a lot of phone calls every day. I don’t know why, but my intervention has always been for humanitarian purposes,” he adds.
The investigation, according to judicial environment, refers to alleged pressure carried out by the competent bodies responsible for rescue at sea.
“Before we even inform NGOs,” says the priest, “I always alerted the Italian and Maltese Coast Guard operational centers. I have never had any dealings with the ‘secret chat’, I have always communicated through my cell phone” .
EDITOR’S NOTE Father Mussie Zerai, an Eritrean Catholic priest from the Vatican’s Ethiopian College living in Rome, who has been implicated in facilitating and abetting trans-Mediterranean human smuggling following 2012 investigations by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). According to PACE’s report, Lives Lost in the Mediterranean: Who is Responsible? , Mussie allegedly served as a smuggling intermediary between the ‘captains’ of Italy-bound vessels and the Italian Coast Guard. Without his call, the migrants rescue was unlikely: If the captain is afraid of being implicated in smuggling, then how about Mussie Zerai, the man on the other side of the phone? What makes the coast guard willing to pick up the call from Mussie but not the captains themselves? Why does Mussie have this special monopoly? (SOURCE: The Traffic Racket: The Eritrean “Activists” (Part 1) ) * Palermo Repubblica and AFP contributed to the story The “captain” had the phone, but nobody knew where he had got it from or who had added Father Zerai’s number to it. In a short conversation Father Zerai was informed that they were having problems…The Priest informed them that he would contact the Italian authorities to request assistance. Father Zerai subsequently contacted the Italian Coast Guard… However, in the meantime, the “captain” had thrown the compass and the satellite phone overboard when he thought the helicopter was going to rescue them. He explained that he did not want to be arrested for possession of the telephone and the compass. He feared that these items would be used as evidence of his involvement in a smuggling network….