Italy rejects extradition of Tunis attack suspect

2015-10-28 20:35
Tunisians stand on the beach of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis, in the aftermath of a shooting attack on the beach resort claimed by the Islamic State group. (AFP)

Tunisians stand on the beach of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis, in the aftermath of a shooting attack on the beach resort claimed by the Islamic State group. (AFP)

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Rome - An Italian court said on Wednesday it had blocked the extradition - and ordered the release - of a Moroccan migrant arrested in May in connection with a major terrorist attack in Tunisia.

Abdel Majid Touil, 22, was accused of having played a role in the March 18 shoot-out at the National Bardo Museum in Tunis, in which 24 peopled died - 21 tourists, a policemen, and two of the three gunmen who carried out the attack.

In a statement, the Milan Appeals Court said the fact that he risked being sentenced to the death in Tunisia was "an impediment" to his transfer there - a normal obstacle to extradition in the Italian legal system.

Judges noted that Tunisian authorities did not provide any assurances that Touil could be spared from execution if found guilty - a step that third countries can adopt to get around Italian restrictions in extradition cases.

In a separate development, Milan prosecutors filed a request for the case against Touil to be dropped, since their investigations revealed that he was in Italy at the time of the Bardo attack and had only tenuous links with alleged attackers.

The ANSA news agency said authorities established that the Moroccan did call a suspected terrorist in February, but only because that person was also a member of a migrant smugglers' racket that helped him cross the Mediterranean.

Touil was apprehended on the outskirts of Milan, near the apartment where his mother and two brothers live, on May 19. He was said to have joined them after arriving in Sicily in mid-February, mixed with other boat migrants.

His arrest raised public fears that terrorists could hide among the tens of thousands of economic migrants and asylum seekers who land on Italian shores each year. But it also raised suspicions that his was a case of mistaken identity.

Teachers of an Italian language course for foreigners where Touil had enrolled said in several media interviews that he was in class when the Bardo Museum attack took place, as well as in the days leading up to it.

Read more on:    italy  |  tunisia  |  north africa

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