By ELIAS MESERET
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) – A court in Ethiopia charged two men over the deaths of four Ethiopians who died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to go to Italy.
The two suspects, Ethiopians identified as Umer Musa and Abdel Menan Adem, were charged with “holding people hostage,” the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporation reported Wednesday.
Prosecutors said the two defendants, in collaboration with accomplices in Sudan and Libya, accepted money to transport the four migrants who drowned in the Mediterranean in March 2015.
“As soon as they reached Tripoli, they were locked in a container and forced to call their family members to force them (to) send money,” the charge sheet said. Members of the victims’ families sent a total of $3,400 to the suspects, but their boat sank off the Mediterranean while they were attempting to reach Italy, it said.
The same court also charged another man, identified as Mohammed Ahmed, over allegedly smuggling people who were brutally killed by the Islamic State group in Libya in April.
Ethiopia is attempting to stem the flow of citizens seeking to illegally migrate to Europe. The government says it has recently arrested 200 suspected human smugglers and new legislation has been drafted to strengthen punishments for human trafficking.
Ethiopia’s current laws stipulate prison terms ranging from five to 20 years for crimes related to human smuggling and a maximum fine of $2,500.
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