24 aid workers accused of espionage, forgery, and intercepting radio frequencies in Greece are in legal “limbo” after their trial was postponed.
Irish law student Seán Binder is among them and also faces charges of human trafficking, money laundering, and fraud during his work for the now-defunct NGO Emergency Response Centre International (ECRI).
“I may not have been found guilty today but effectively I’m still not free.
The criminalization of humanitarianism continues,” he told the Guardian.
The aid workers, almost all volunteers, include Greek and foreigners who had participated in search and rescue work on Lesbos.
Former ERCI volunteer and competitive swimmer Sarah Mardini, who helped save 18 Syrian refugees from drowning when their dinghy sunk off Turkey, is being tried.
Mardini and Binder have spent 106 days in pre-trial detention, with Mardini incarcerated in Athens’ high-security Korydallos prison.
Under Greek law, they can be held in custody pending trial for up to 18 months.
If ultimately convicted, both could face 25 years in prison.
Mardini’s lawyer Haris Petsalnikos suggests the charges may be “the most serious any aid worker has ever faced.”
Protestors across Europe are calling for the charges to be dropped.
The European Parliament has condemned the trial.
Outside the Lesbos court, protestors held banners reading “saving lives is not a crime”.
“Today’s decision adds to the ordeal of the defendants and compounds the violation of their human rights,” said Amnesty International’s Giorgos Kosmopoulos.
The trial highlights growing hostility towards NGOs involved in migrant solidarity work and mounting accusations against the Greek government of migrant pushbacks.
Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has denied the alleged pushbacks, arguing that Greek patrols “intercept” migrant boats, as EU law allows, until Turkish coastguard vessels collect them.
He has accepted his government pursues “a tough but fair” migrant policy.
Source: The Guardian