Italy: ship captain arrested following allegations of illegal arms shipments to Libya
The Italian police have arrested the captain of a Lebanese-flagged vessel, following allegations of illegal arms shipments from Turkey to Libya. The ship was searched after a crew member told authorities that it was carrying weapons, including tanks, artillery, howitzers and machine guns that were loaded onto the ship at the Turkish port of Mersin and were destined for Tripoli, the capital of Libya. The whistleblower, who has claimed asylum, alleges that Turkish military officers accompanying the arms shipment had told the crew to declare the stop in Tripoli was due to mechanical problems. The ships transponders were turned off after leaving Turkey.
The ship travelled from Turkey to Tripoli, and then to Italy to collect a shipment of cars. Franco Cozzi, the chief prosecutor, said that despite not taking place in Italian waters it was still necessary to investigate any alleged violation of the UN arms embargo on Libya.
Any arms shipments to Libya would be in contravention of a UN arms embargo - described by Stephanie Williams, the UN's deputy special envoy for Libya, as a "joke" because of how frequently it has been violated. In January it was reported that several countries violated the arms embargo within a week of agreeing to uphold it, sending shipments of weapons to different factions within Libya by sea and air. In mid-February it was announced that the EU would begin to deploy warships, planes, and satellites to try and enforce the embargo.