Greece drops spying charges against aid workers who rescued migrants from the sea

Greece drops spying charges against aid workers who rescued migrants from the sea

Greece drops spying charges against aid workers who rescued migrants from the sea


A Greek court has dropped espionage charges against a group of aid workers who rescued migrants from the sea, in a move hailed by rights groups and lawmakers.

Irish-German citizen Sean Binder and 23 other aid workers had their misdemeanor charges overturned by a court on the island of Lesbos on Friday, but felony charges against the group remain pending.

The court in the island’s capital, Mytilene, suspended prosecution of some of the misdemeanor charges due to “procedural irregularities” in the investigation, Binder’s lawyer Zacharias Kessas told the court. .

“They recognized that there were certain procedural irregularities that prevented the court from proceeding on the merits of the charge, so regarding the misdemeanors, someone can say the charges are dropped,” Kessas said.

“But we can’t be happy about that because in reality they just realized what we’ve been screaming for four years, so there’s still a lot to do to reach the final stage which is the crimes that are still in progress. ongoing, and the investigation is still ongoing.”

An Amnesty International statement on Friday said the court in Lesbos “returned the indictment to the prosecutor due to procedural shortcomings, including the lack of a translation of the indictment.”

Binder and Syrian refugee Sarah Mardini were arrested in 2018 after taking part in several search and rescue operations with the nonprofit organization Emergency Response Center International near Lesbos, an island in the Aegean Sea.

The group had faced four charges described by Greek judicial authorities as “misdemeanors”: espionage, disclosure of state secrets, illegal use of radio frequencies and forgery, according to a press release from the Human Rights Office. of ONU.

The court’s decision was welcomed by advocacy groups and politicians.

European Union lawmakers said it was “a step towards justice”.

Spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Liz Throssell, welcomed the court’s recommendation to drop some of the charges, but reiterated the UN’s call “for all charges charges against all defendants be dropped”.

Binder’s elected representative, MEP Grace O’Sullivan, said the prosecution “was essentially full of holes” in a video posted to Twitter.

“Good news from Greece. We have just learned that Sean Binder and the other search and rescue aid workers have had their charges dropped,” she said.

While the misdemeanor charges were dropped on Friday, an investigation into the felony charges against aid workers remains ongoing, Amnesty International said in a statement.

The aid workers are accused of aiding smuggling rings, being members of a criminal organization and money laundering – charges that could carry up to 25 years in prison if convicted, according to a European Parliament report published in June 2021.

Referring to the felony charges that remain outstanding, O’Sullivan said while they don’t know how long it will take, “today is actually a step in the right direction.” A step towards justice.

“All we want is justice. We want this to go to trial and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon given what happened today,” Binder said outside the courthouse.

“At the same time, we’ve been so lucky to have so much international support, everywhere, and I think that’s forced the prosecution of this court to at least recognize the mistakes that have been made and at least to some extent there’s had less injustice.”

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