Italians held by Haftar’s forces divulge details of the horrors they endured

The fishermen held in Benghazi recall the unsanitary and psychological conditions they were subjected to

Giovanni Bonom still struggles to sleep after his ordeal in Libya. [Photo: DW]
After a long imprisonment by Haftar’s forces that last 108 days, eighteen Italian fishermen were finally released just before holidays.

“When we arrived at the dock and I saw all the people waiting for us, I cried for the entire day,” Said Giovanni Bonom, one of the fishermen held captive for over three months, recalling the tears of joy shed when they arrived home to their families.

“Whatever happened, I waited for their release before decorating the Christmas tree. I am happy, but the struggle is not over,” Says Rosaria Asaro, Giovanni’s wife, who detailed that her husband continues to struggle in his sleep, speaking of how the guards are coming to get him in his slumber.

The fishermen were held in four different locations, Bonomo spoke of one of the transfers that happened at night without warning.”In the middle of the night, they let us out of the cell and put us next to each other, facing the wall. They pointed guns at us, and I thought they were going to kill us. Then they wet us with a hose, to wash us.”

The seaman spoke of the violence they witnessed, “They once beat a Libyan with batons and stones and made him lick food from the floor,” Giovanni recalled, thinking that same fate was awaiting him and his fellow fishermen.

He said that many of them were close to a mental collapse throughout their time in captivity, adding that one of them would constantly pace back and forth nervously, threatening to commit suicide by drinking the bleach that was given to them to clean the hole in the floor they were forced to use as a toilet.

“We had some blankets that were so filthy that you had to stay away from them. I am getting pain relief injections for my legs after sleeping on the floor for months.”

Another fisherman of the 18, Habib Mathlouthi, recalled the way the cells were built, completely bleak and without any way to look into the outside world, specifically designed to psychologically torture inmates.

“It was all painted black, without windows, only an air vent on the roof. It was totally dark.”

Mathlouthi also recalled the details of how Haftar’s men attempted to frame them for drug possession, forcing them to sign papers they did not understand and making them touch packages of drugs so their fingerprints would remain on them.

“Once, they put me in isolation for hours and I don’t know why. The guards were drugged up”. He added, “I would never go back there. Not even for thousands of euros. Instead, I will work closely to Malta or Tunisia.”

The fishermen were released after 108 days and in exchange for the restoration of diplomatic relations between Italy and Haftar’s forces, Italy’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs both flew to Benghazi for the day they were released.


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