They are charged “simply for helping refugees and migrants in danger of drowning at sea,” says Amnesty. The story of the Syrian Mardini has reached the cinema.
Sarah Mardini and Seán Binder, two of the defendants. INTERNATIONAL AMNESTY
from thefreeonline The HuffPost / EFE Agency | Jan 13 2023
The trial against Syrian refugee and activist Sarah Mardini, whose odyssey to escape the war in Syria and reach Europe in 2015 has been turned into a film, and against 23 other members of a migrant rescue and rescue NGO, formally begins this Friday before the Court of Appeals for the North Aegean, on the Greek island of Lesbos.
A woman holds a baby at Karatepe refugee camp, on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece, Monday, March 29, 2021. The European Union’s home affairs commissioner is visiting asylum-seeker facilities on the eastern Greek islands of Samos and Lesbos amid continuing accusations against Greece of illegal summary deportations. (AP Photo/Panagiotis Balaskas)
Mardini, German trained salvage diver Sean Binder and 22 others are charged by the Greek judicial authorities for allegedly committing a series of offences, including espionage and forgery, and could face up to a prison sentence. eight years if convicted.
During the first session held on Tuesday, later delayed, the defendants’ defense lawyers testified and it was decided that the trial would continue on Friday.
The accusations against Mardini and the other members of the NGO Emergency Response Center International (ERCI), active in Lesbos between 2016 and 2018, have generated harsh reactions from international human rights organizations.
Amnesty International issued a statement Monday calling the charges “unfair” and “unfounded” and noting that the 24 ERCI members are charged “simply for helping refugees and migrants in danger of drowning at sea.”
According to another statement issued by the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), the charges are based on a report by the Greek Police that contains flagrant errors, “including claims that some of the defendants participated in rescue missions on various dates when they were not in Greece”.
Apart from the trial, the Lesbos prosecutor’s office has opened a criminal investigation against Mardini and Binder for four years for the alleged commission of the crimes of facilitating the illegal entry of foreigners into the country, belonging to a criminal organization and money laundering, which They are punishable by up to 20 years in prison. So far they have not been charged with any of these crimes.
Mardini had traveled on a precarious boat from Turkey to Lesbos in 2015, as an asylum seeker from Syria. When the engine failed, she and her younger sister Yusra, who swam for the refugee team at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics, saved 18 other people on board.
Her story became the movie Las Nadadoras on the Netflix platform last year.
After her journey, Sarah enrolled at Bard College in Berlin, but she took a semester off from her studies to return to Lesbos as a volunteer with the search and rescue team.
Mardini and Binder were arrested on August 21, 2018 by the Police and spent more than 100 days in prison before being released on bail.
Mardini currently lives in Germany and according to HRW, she was previously barred from entering Greece to be present at her own trial, “a right that is enshrined in international, European and Greek law.”
“This trial is not about me or Sarah, or even the 22 other defendants. This is the attempt by the Greek authorities to crush compassion and prevent people from seeking safety,” said Seán Binder, who currently lives in London, according to the statement issued by Amnesty International.
Among the defendants are also the Greek Nassos Karakitsos, a trained rescuer, and Panos Moraitis, the founder of ERCI.
In a European Parliament report published in 2021, the case of Mardini and Binder was described as “the largest case of criminalization of solidarity in Europe.”