Reporter : Ambelu Ayele
The Ethiopian Federal Police announced that Kidane Zakarias, who was wanted for the crime of human trafficking, was arrested in Sudan.
The Federal Police of Ethiopia announced that Kidane Zakarias, who escaped from the hands of the Federal Prison Commission and was wanted internationally, was arrested in Sudan on February 11, 2013, while he was under trial for the crime of human trafficking.
Kidane Zakarias Habtemariam, a dangerous human trafficker known for his cruel actions and brutal treatment of refugees, has been arrested in Sudan by the Ethiopian Federal Police through the International Police Union (INTERPOL).
Two Interpol Red Notices have wanted the suspect since 2019 for leading a large criminal organization behind the kidnapping, robbery, and murder of East African refugees, smuggling refugees in Ethiopia and the Netherlands, and other related crimes.
The international police organization (Interpol) was arrested in Sudan on Saturday, January 1, in operation by the security authorities of the United Arab Emirates.
UAE authorities began tracking the ex-Kidane network, including his brother.
“His brother was illegally transferring money in his name. It was learned that the money laundering ring intercepted by UAE security officials was located in Sudan,” he said.
UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan tweeted that Kidane is in jail with his brother.
“A nine-month long international police operation in collaboration with the United Arab Emirates and Interpol has managed to arrest Kidane Zakarias, the leader of a criminal human trafficking group who escaped from [Ethiopia] prison,” the minister said.
General Saeed Abdullah Al Suwaidi, chief of the United Arab Emirates Narcotics Control Agency, praised the security forces for making the arrests.
“Thanks to the professionalism and dedication of our police officers, the world’s most wanted smuggler will not be able to carry out his offensive,” he said.
The individual accused of smuggling migrants and human trafficking is wanted on the Interpol Red List.
The prosecutor in the Netherlands has placed Kidane Habtemaryam on the most wanted list and ordered his arrest and prosecution.
He was arrested in Ethiopia in 2020 on the same charge and fled the court in February.
The 38-year-old was sentenced to life in absentia despite fleeing the court.
The head of the police service said that arresting the smuggler was a great success and thanked the partner countries.
We are grateful to the authorities of the United Arab Emirates for their cooperation and quick action.
“Today, a convicted criminal is arrested and brought to justice for the harm he caused many victims. It proves that the Interpol network works and that success comes from countries working together.”
Who is Kidane Zechariah Habtemariam?
When refugees swim from the boat
Photo source, AP
Zidane reportedly had houses [warehouses] in Libya where thousands of refugees were held.
He is a notorious smuggler who leads a group known for smuggling migrants into the country, selling them to other traffickers, and collecting money from other countries.
The Kidane group has been accused of raping and torturing women and committing various human rights violations.
The Covenant Group is based in Libya and has representatives in many countries.
It abducts immigrants from different countries and forces them to pay money to their families in other countries.
He said refugees who could not pay had suffered for years at a Covenant-owned refugee camp in Bani Walid, Libya.
The victims said that when refugees from Sudan and other countries arrive in Libya, they are forced to pay double the initial agreed amount, and those who fail to pay are beaten and abused.
Some refugees who passed through said that they were forced to pay between 5,000 and 12,000 dollars.
Migrant rights activists call on the international community to hold the Covenant accountable for its crimes against many refugees.
However, his escape from prison in 2021 angered many fans.
Migrants entering Libya to cross to Europe face severe restrictions. The instability in Libya is a haven for smugglers who torture, exploit, and even kill refugees.
Therefore, the Dutch prosecutor has listed Kidane Zakarias as one of the most wanted.
The Dutch government has announced that it will work with various countries to arrest 38-year-old Kidane Zakarias.
In December 2021, Yohannes Habte, an Eritrean-Dutch smuggler, was arrested in Nairobi and handed over to the Dutch government.
The 53-year-old was charged with human trafficking and document falsification.
The alleged trafficker, who is a Dutch national, will remain in custody pending trial and face up to eight years in prison if convicted, Interpol said.
Yohannes Habte was wanted by Interpol and was arrested outside Nairobi in cooperation with the Kenyan police.
In June 2021, an Ethiopian court sentenced another Eritrean, Tewolde Goitoom, to 18 years in prison for transporting thousands of refugees in Libya.
The smuggler, nicknamed Walid, was ordered to pay 200,000 Birr in addition to imprisonment.
Last October, Ethiopian authorities extradited Walid to the Netherlands, and the prosecutor said he would be brought to court.
The other accomplice, Shishai Godefai, was sentenced to 16 years and six months in prison and fined 50,000 birrs.
Ato Tewolde Goiteom was found guilty of five charges of human trafficking.
Hundreds of thousands of Eritrean youths are being displaced by their country’s forced and unlimited military service. Activists say other rights violations are also a factor in the displacement.
During their perilous journey, they became victims of smugglers and kidnappers.
Since 2007 alone, some 30,000 Eritrean refugees have been trafficked to the Sinai desert and forced to pay money, some of whom have been sold for their organs.
A group that studies crime in the Sinai desert says that most of the refugees arrested in Sinai are from Sudan and that some Sudanese police have close ties to smugglers.
The families of the dead kidnapped from Ethiopia, Sudan, and Eritrea and taken to Sinai paid at least 600 million dollars to the smugglers.
Many Eritrean refugees who cross the Sahara desert into Libya to reach Europe have been subjected to severe torture and abuse by traffickers and their accomplices.