The Associated Press has reported that an Italian court on Saturday convicted a “Gambian”, two Senegalese and one Nigerian in the drugging, aggravated sexual assault and murder of an Italian teen in Rome, a crime that spurred calls in Italy for quick expulsion of migrants illegally living in the country. The men are Yusif Salia, 35, Mamadou Gara 29, Brian Minteh 46, and Chima Alinno 49.
According to the AP report, after some nine hours of deliberation, the court delivered its verdict and sentenced two of the defendants including the purported Gambian to life imprisonment, Italy’s stiffest criminal punishment, and meted out prison sentences of 27 and 24.5 years to the other two, the LaPresse news agency said.
The body of Desiree Mariottini, 16, was found in October 2018 in an abandoned building used by drug dealers in a neighborhood near Rome’s main train station. When arrested, the suspects were found to be lacking documents granting permission for migrants to legally reside in Italy.
Right-wing leader Matteo Salvini, who was interior minister at the time of the slaying, used the case to push his anti-migrant political agenda. The brutal crime also focused attention on the degradation of some areas of the Italian capital.
Some in Italy demanded that the then-populist government speed up expulsions of immigrants who were in Italy illegally, as promised by Salvini’s League party during the 2018 election campaign.
Prosecutors, who had sought life imprisonment for all four defendants, alleged during the trial that Mariottini had been drugged, gang raped and left for dead in the abandoned building. Defendants were also charged with providing drugs to a minor.
In the days following the slaying, Italian news reports indicated that Mariottini had told her family that she had missed the bus to her town outside of Rome and she would stay at a friend’s house the night she disappeared. A lawyer for the family denied reports that she had a drug problem.
However, some Gambians have raised doubt about the nationality of Yusif Salia as reported by AP and other Italian newspapers as both the first and last names are more common in Ghana and hardly known in The Gambia.