An Italian newspaper claims that three of the 40 rescued migrants who came to Italy in June with German NGO ship Sea-Watch 3 ran a migrant detention center near in Libya where migrants were tortured. Police allegedly concealed their arrest, which happened on the day of their disembarkation.
“Rackete brings us criminals,” the headline of an online article by right-wing Italian newspaper Il Giornale reads.
In the piece, which has garnered some 175 comments in the 24 hours after its publication on Thursday, the author writes that three men arrested in Sicily on charges of torturing migrants in Libya were taken to Italy by German captain Carola Rackete's Sea-Watch 3 rescue vessel.
On September 16, police had said they apprehended three men who arrived in Lampedusa on June 29 -- the same day that the Sea-Watch 3 disembarked 40 migrants on the island following a tense, over 2-week long stand-off with Italian authorities.
"The Captain transported three immigrants accused of torture on the Sea Watch," the daily said in the article, alleging that the Italian interior ministry and prosecutors had decided to hide the news.
"We cannot rule it out, but we have no precise information," Sea-Watch spokesman Ruben Neugebauer told German news agency dpa about the report of Il Giornale. He added that his charity Sea-Watch cannot do background checks on the people it rescues at sea.
Ongoing feud between Salvini and Rackete
Police said the three suspects ran a migrant detention center in a former air base in Zawiya, a town some 45 kilometers west of Tripoli. There, inmates used to be raped, tortured and killed. The suspects were caught after other migrants identified them as their torturers.
After spending more than three weeks at sea in June, Rackete decided to flout orders not to enter Italian waters. As she approached the port of Lampedusa on June 29, she hit an Italian coast guard unit.
Shortly after bring arrested upon arrival, an Italian judge ordered Rackete’s release. Former interior minister and far-right leader Matteo Salvini, who has an ongoing feud with Rackete, publicized Il Giornale's report on Twitter.
The prosecutors who ordered last week's arrests and the interior ministry refused to comment.
With material from dpa