Anomalous Investigation in Italy

Mario Draghi lands in Libya on 6 April in his first official trip as prime minister, while in Italy the case of journalists intercepted in the judicial enquiry into the Iuventa, the ship used by the German NGO Jugend Rettet to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean until 2017, is breaking out. Draghi, in Tripoli, praised the work of the so-called Libyan coastguard at a joint press conference with Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Mohamed Dabaiba.

The first investigation into NGOs rescuing migrants at sea began in 2017, when the prime minister was Paolo Gentiloni and the interior minister was Marco Minniti, both of the Democratic Party and both promoters of the migrant agreement with Tripoli. Under that agreement, Italy paid Libya almost 800 million euros over three years. The aim was to stop the migrants by funding and training the Libyan coast guard and detention centres in the country.

The one concerning the Iuventa is one of the most important investigations that Italian prosecutors have launched in recent years against humanitarian organisations that rescue at sea. The seizure of the German NGO's boat on 2 August 2017 was a watershed. It seemed to corroborate the alleged collaborations between rescuers and traffickers, which had been investigated for at least six months by several prosecutors, including those in Trapani. In March 2021, the Sicilian prosecutor's office closed the investigation and formalised charges against the staff of three humanitarian organisations: Save the Children, Médecins Sans Frontières (Msf) and Jugend Rettet. Twenty-one people were charged with aiding and abetting illegal immigration for participating in several rescues of migrants fleeing Libya between 2016 and 2017, when the Italian Coast Guard Operations Centre (Mrcc) was coordinating the rescues.

From the papers filed by the prosecutors, it emerges that dozens of Italian and foreign journalists were intercepted while talking with NGO staff or with some of the suspects, who had their phones tapped. The most striking case is that of Nancy Porsia, a journalist and researcher, whose phone was directly tapped by the Trapani prosecutor's office for six months with the authorisation of a judge. Apparently, the motivation was that the journalist had been indicated by an NGO as undesirable, after having embarked on one of the humanitarian ships at the centre of the investigation. The content of the interceptions was then transcribed and deposited in a file of thirty thousand pages; the file was sent to the judge for preliminary investigations, who will have to decide whether to start the trial.

In the files that Internazionale was able to see, the journalists' conversations with their sources were not protected: details and telephone numbers were left unencrypted. In Porsia's case, even a conversation with Alessandra Ballerini, the lawyer of Giulio Regeni's family, was transcribed and she spoke about the case of the Italian researcher killed in Egypt.

Asl see Lorenzo Tondo in the Guardian,

Full titleL’inchiesta anomala della procura di Trapani sulle ong
Media typeArticle
Topics Border and Surveillance Technology & Industry, Criminalization of Borderwork - Trafficking, Sea Rescue Operations
Regions Europe, Mediterranean Sea

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