October 7, 2022

A judge in Italy on Monday ordered an Italian man to remain in prison as an investigation continues into the death of a Nigerian street vendor whose brutal beating at the hands of the suspect shocked many in Italy and drew strong condemnation from the Nigerian government.

Police arrested Filippo Claudio Giuseppe Ferlazzo, 32, on July 29, minutes after the vendor was beaten and left for dead on a busy shopping street in the coastal town of Civitanova Marche as bystanders watched, including at least two who filmed the attack.

An autopsy this week will determine the exact cause of death of Alika Ogorchukwu, 39. The widely circulated videos showed the suspect on top of Ogorchukwu, beating him with his bare hands after first hitting him with the victim’s own crutch.

Judge Claudio Bonifazi presided over a hearing for Ferlazzo at a prison near the Adriatic coastal city of Ancona.

Ferlazzo “gave his side of the story and said he was sorry,” defense attorney Roberta Bizzarri told reporters. He added that Ferlazzo, who is white, said there was “no racial element.”

Pressed if Ferlazzo said he felt sorry for the victim’s family, the lawyer replied, “yes, to the family.”

Ferlazzo could face murder and robbery charges because Ogorchukwu’s cell phone was taken.

“Ferlazzo’s ‘apologies’ are not enough, now only justice is needed, not vendetta,” Orgochukwu’s family said in a statement issued through their lawyer. “It’s hard to understand what happened.”

The family’s lawyer, Francesco Mantella, added in a phone call that the widow, Charity Oriachi, wants to see the suspect “face to face” to try to understand why he killed her husband.

Charity Oriachi, wife of Nigerian street vendor Alika Ogorchukwu, cries at the scene where her husband was murdered.Chiara Gabrielli / AP

Meanwhile, the Nigerian government called on Italy to “swiftly bring the perpetrator of the heinous act” to justice.

A statement by Nigeria’s foreign ministry released on Sunday said the government “strongly condemns the gruesome killing of a Nigerian” and called on all Nigerians “to exercise restraint as the Law takes its course”. The country’s embassy in Rome has been instructed to “work quickly, together with the relevant Italian authorities, to ensure that justice is served in order to prevent a recurrence of the unfortunate incident.”

Some members of the Nigerian immigrant community in the Marche region that includes the area where Orgochukwu lived and worked protested the killing on Saturday. Another protest is expected later this week.

Police investigator Matteo Luconi told journalists that the suspect attacked the vendor following Ogorchukwu’s “insistent” requests to him and his female companion for pocket change.

The murdered man’s lawyer said he was attacked after praising the woman’s beauty. The partner, identified only as Elena D., was quoted in daily Corriere della Sera as saying that Orgochukwu had touched her hand, but that she was not particularly bothered by it. The woman said she was in a clothing store when the attack happened shortly after.

The attack occurred during the campaign for Italy’s September 25 election. The anti-immigration leader of the Lega party, Matteo Salvini, has made immigration as well as protecting citizens from violent crime top issues.

Orgochukwu was using a crutch after he was hit by a car while riding a bicycle. Mandela had been engaged to receive compensation for the accident to help the family, including an 8-year-old son, who, the lawyer said, has not yet been told what happened to his father.

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