By Nick Squires
An Italian court has sentenced to life imprisonment a sadistic people smuggler who raped, tortured and murdered migrants trying to reach Europe from North Africa.
Osman Matammud, 22, from Somalia, was found guilty of multiple counts of murder, abduction for ransom and sexual violence against young women and girls.
He was sentenced after a five-hour deliberation by the Court of Assizes in Milan.
Matammud was arrested a year ago after being recognised by fellow Somalis in a migrant reception centre in Milan.
He was almost lynched before police stepped in and arrested him.
He had crossed the Mediterranean in a boat full of migrants and had tried to pass himself off as an asylum-seeker.
He was accused of the horrific abuse of migrants at a squalid detention camp at Bani Walid in the Libyan desert, 100 miles south-east of Tripoli, with prosecutors comparing him to a Nazi concentration camp guard.
During his trial in Milan, 17 witnesses told the court how they had been raped, beaten or tortured by Matammud. He will spend the first three years of his incarceration in solitary confinement.
A migrant boy is carried as he waits with others to receive food at a detention centre in the coastal city of Sabratha, Libya, October 9, 2017. Credit: Reuters
He had denied all the charges and his lawyer said he would appeal the verdict. His trial revealed the squalid conditions and violent abuse endured by migrants as they try to cross the Sahara on their way to the coast of Libya, from where they pay smugglers to send them in boats towards Italy.
“I’m not Somali, I’m not Muslim – I’m your boss,” he allegedly told migrants and refugees when they arrived at the camp.
Several Somali women told investigators in Italy that they had been repeatedly raped by Matammud, who is from Mogadishu. The violence was in part to exert pressure on their families to pay more money for their passage across the Mediterranean.
Migrants in a detention centre run by the interior ministry of Libya’s eastern-based government, in Benghazi, Libya October 9, 2017. Credit: Reuters
Matammud would allegedly place plastic bags on the backs of migrants and set them alight so that molten plastic blistered their skin.
One teenage girl told Milan prosecutors: “The first night, he came into the hangar, he grabbed me and he ripped off my clothes in front of everyone. He penetrated me. I fainted but when I came to, there was blood everywhere. I was raped many times by him – every night.”
“In a career spanning 40 years, I’ve never come across such horrors. And what is going on in Bani Walid is going on in all the transit camps,” said chief prosecutor Ilda Boccassini, who has spent much of her career fighting the Mafia.