By Wendy Igwema
It all happened one morning, 4am to be precise, on the 28th of October 2020. We were just waking up from sleep in our home in Torino.
Suddenly there was knock on the door. When I opened I saw about 9 Italian policemen. One of them was a woman. I asked them what they wanted. ‘We want to take your husband in for questioning’ one of them said to me. They said they were arresting him on mafia-related crimes in Italy. They proceeded to search the entire apartment and they did not find what they were looking for.
As they took my husband away, I requested to go with them to their station but they refused, saying that all they want is to interview him. They said they would let him go afterwards. Before they took him away, my husband called his lawyer, and told him about the presence of the police in our house. He advised that we closely watch them so they wouldn’t plant anything in our house. We did so.
Let me quickly state my husband is not a mafia member. He has worked here in a hospital as a nurse in Vias Palato Capa GS in Torino for over 12 of the 16 years that we have lived here in Italy. He is a law-abiding person who has no criminal record whatsoever – no 419, no internet fraud, nothing.
After about a 2-hour search of our house where they found nothing, they took him away. On that same day around 11am, I got a call from the Italian police, that they have decided to remand my husband in prison. I requested to know why. They didn’t tell me why. So I requested to speak with my husband, who told me that the police accused him of belonging to a mafia group in Italy. ‘Are you a mafia member’, I asked my husband. ‘No, but I am a Norseman’, he said to me.
So I met the lawyer again, an Italian. The Italian police did not allow him to see my husband. After about 14 days of my husband being in detention without access to his lawyer and family, I was eventually to find out that they also arrested anyone remotely or close to him. They arrested them all, about 50 of them in number. It was a massive raid in Bologna, Milan, Torino, Rome, Naples, Sicily and Sardinia.
Information that reached me indicated that the whole raid was just about rival groups in Italy who fought against one another sometime ago. Our lawyer, Emmanuel Pergas, met the police and demanded to be shown proof that my husband was part of the group that participated in that brawl. The police told our lawyer that they had monitored meetings that cult groups in Italy have had over a long period. In all of the video surveillances, my husband was not in any of them. They said though that my husband participated as a boss when he intervened and made peace between two Nigerians having an altercation on the streets of Torino.
My husband has been in prison over ten months without charge. Each time he is taken before a judge, the Italian police always argued for an adjournment which they always get. Most of the said court appearances were online, and only the lawyer makes an appearance. I go to see my husband every week, and the last time I saw him, he was looking very unwell. I was pregnant when they came to arrest him, and the sudden nature of the affair led to my losing my pregnancy.
The name of the prison where my husband is being detained illegally is Vallette. There are hundreds of Nigerians held in this prison and many other prisons in Italy without charge. Over 52 Nigerians were arrested in Italy on the day my husband was arrested.
I am basically surviving on the stipends that come from the hospital where my husband works. There’s no other assistance whatsoever from any source. He has a life contract with the hospital. They cannot sack him. The hospital has also made a case for my husband that he has worked with them for over a decade without blemish of any kind. They have agreed to testify in court to my husband’s good name in Torino.
These people (Italian Police) have worked to cancel the next court appearance in September. They are bent on just keeping our people in jail to rot and languish. In the year 2019 after I lost my twins, friends and well-wishers came to the cemetery for the burial of my twins. They wore black clothes. Because of that, most of them were arrested as Mafia members.
Please let the Italian police release my husband and the many other Nigerians languishing in jails. We their wives are suffering. If they are alleged to have committed any offence, let them take them to court to prove their innocence.
Received via email courtesy Majirioghene Etemiku.