Greece sues NGO helping migrants at sea

WorldGreece sues NGO helping migrants at sea

  • More than 20 humanitarian activists face up to 25 years in prison for “illegal human trafficking” and “espionage”

  • “The guilty verdict will set a very dangerous precedent for the criminalization of people who support the rights of migrants and refugees,” says the UN Special Rapporteur.

When the Dutch in 2017 Peter Wittenberg visited the Greek island for the first time teen He never thought he would be charged after four years Espionage, Human Trafficking, Money Laundering and Revealing Secrets Of the state

This former banker and his wife – he is not accused – formed a small organization that offered rain for refugees who reached the island and were stranded on the beaches. In addition, Wittenberg had a smaller boat, in coordination with Greek Coast Guard, did something marine rescue operations, Now that man is before the judge.

“We were just voluntary work, sheltering people on the beach. people had cold, frightened and his clothes were soaked After a difficult journey in a rubber boat. We gave them dry clothes, cookies and water. Nothing more,” explains Wittenberg via a statement to EL Peridico.

Greece doesn’t see it that way. The trial began last week against Wittenberg and 23 other activists – most of whom were foreigners. mytilene, the capital of Lesbos. the defendant has to face punishment up to 25 years in prison, everyone supported them international emergency response center (ERCI), an international rescue organization.

The first hearing of the trial was held last Thursday, but did not last much five minutes because one of the defendants is a lawyer, and court of lesbos He has no power to judge her. There is no date for the next hearing, but the matter is ongoing.

“If they are found guilty, we could be in a situation where search and rescue operations at sea are declared a crime,” he insisted. Mary LawlorMILF special correspondent United Nations On the position of human rights defenders.

“a guilty verdict Will set a very dangerous precedent in criminalizing those who support migrant and refugee rights in Greece and The European Union, That would lead to more deaths at sea,” Lawler explained.

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from sea to bench

The two most prominent defendants are two young women, a Syrian and an Irishman. Sarah MardiniIn 2015, he was traveling with a menhaden to Greek shores with his sister and dozens of other refugees when the boat’s engine left them. Then the two maidens jumped into the sea and found themselves swimming pull the boat to Lesbos. both are professional swimmer,

Sarah went to Germany and returned to the Greek island in 2018 to help people arriving from Turkey. there they met sean binder, an Irish diver with whom he worked on rescue operations. In September of the same year the police arrested them and they passed jail for more than 100 days a deterrent.

,I am angry Because they are criminalizing the legal obligation to help people in distress at sea. I’m angry because there ain’t one piece testing against us. I am angry because we had to wait for three years for the trial to start and now it cannot continue because the prosecution fails on all sides.”

“What I ask of Greece and the EU is to respect their own laws, NS international maritime law Ships in distress need rescue, but no more search and rescue operation We are suffering precisely because of criminalization, ”the diver continued.

Greece to Turkey

What is happening now at sea, according to countless evidence, is a heated withdrawal by the Greek Coast Guard and Frontex, the European border control agency. As many refugees and migrants point out, when the Greeks catch a boat arriving at their islands, the guards They rob everyone, beat ’em and they leave them on the boats inflatables without motor in the middle of the sea.

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These cases have become the norm since spring 2020, when Turkey began sending refugees to its border with Greece. Athens, however, denies that these hot returns are occurring.

“I went to the trial in Lesbos because I wanted to Look the judge in the eye”Wittenberg explains: “We didn’t do much more than duty of any person: help those who need it”.

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