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Cyprus

Remand extended for suspected people trafficker

The rescue operation on March 31

The remand of the 41-year-old man suspected of smuggling 27 refugees from Syria in a trawler that was rescued last week off Akamas, was extended for six more days by the Paphos district court on Saturday.

The 41-year-old, Adel Halabi, was arrested on April 1 and remanded for eight days, after he was named by a passenger as the boat’s captain. Halabi denies the claim and insists he too paid $2,000 to travel with the rest of the refugees to Cyprus.

The 28 people, including Halabi, six women and three children, all from Syria, were aboard a fishing trawler that sailed from Alanya, Turkey, on March 29, and had paid $2,000 each. The trawler was rescued two days later in the Polis Chryscohou area and the refugees were brought ashore at Latsi. They were transferred to the reception centre for asylum seekers in Kofinou, and some are already in the process of submitting asylum applications, Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos had said. Most of them are believed to have relatives who live in Cyprus.

When authorities were alerted of the trawler, a source told them the captain was aged between 30 and 40, slim and named Adel. He apparently had two phones, one with a Cypriot number and one with a Turkish number. The items were found on the suspect, along with a mobile solar charger.

Halabi claimed the boat’s captain was a man named Ahmat, who had boarded a second boat that approached them the next day they departed from Alanya, to bring them fuel as their own boat had run out of petrol. But instead, he abandoned them. Halabi also claimed that Ahmat, on his way out dropped a phone with a Cypriot number – the one found on Halabi – which was used by the migrants to call relatives in Cyprus for help. The phone had two incoming calls and 17 outgoing calls to other Cypriot numbers, which police are investigating.

Halabi faces charges of conspiring to commit a felony, assisting migrants to enter illegally the Republic, smuggling, and transporting people in an unsafe or overloaded trawler.

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