Italy convicts Tunisian over sinking that killed almost 700 migrants

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 13, 2016 8:34 AM

CATANIA, Sicily (Reuters) - A Tunisian man accused of captaining a migrant boat that sank in 2015 killing almost 700 people was found guilty of multiple manslaughter on Tuesday by an Italian court and sentenced to 18 years in jail.

Mohammed Ali Malek, 28, had denied being the boat's captain, saying he had paid for passage like everyone else on the small wooden fishing vessel that capsized in April 2015 off the coast of Libya, trapping hundreds of people in the ship's hull.

The court in the Sicilian city of Catania also sentenced 26-year-old Syrian Mahmud Bikhit to five years in prison. Survivors said Bikhit was Malek's cabin boy. He had denied any wrongdoing.

Both men were handed fines of nine million euros ($9.5 million) each.

Only 28 people survived the disaster, while the remains of 675 victims were recovered from the wreck, with the boat itself raised to the surface earlier this year by the Italian navy.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Philip Pullella)