A Tunisian man accused of being the captain of a migrant boat that sank killing over 700 people has been found guilty of manslaughter by an Italian court and faces 18 years in jail.
Only 28 people survived the disaster in April last year, when Mohammed Ali Malek slammed an overcrowded fishing boat into a merchant vessel coming to its aid off the coast of Libya.
Malek denied being the captain but a court in the city of Catania dismissed his defense.
Of course this is a heavy sentence,” said the lawyer representing the victims Giorgio Forestieri. “It is a symbol for all those suffering these abuses.”
The court also sentenced 26-year-old Syrian Mahmud Bikhit to five years in prison after survivors said he had been Malek’s cabin boy.
“We think we have some strong arguments,” announced Massimo Ferrante, representing Malek. “We will try and work on some of the weaker points of our defence.”
According to the International Organisation for Migration, in the past three years, roughly half a million migrants have arrived on Italian shores and almost 12,000 have died in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe.