A trial on espionage and migrants started on Thursday. In the dock there are 24 volunteers who are accused of illegally helping illegal migrants who sought to get to Greece by sea at the height of the notorious migration crisis of 2016-2018.
However, only having begun, the court session on the island of Lesvos was interrupted due to the “incompetence” of the judicial authority. Given the presence of a lawyer among the defendants, the court considered itself unauthorized to consider such a case, without having jurisdiction to issue verdicts.
The solution to the situation that has arisen is obvious – the consideration of the case will be referred to a court of another instance. However, the incident that arose allowed human rights activists and defendants to once again call the process absurd. What are the 24 people in the courtroom accused of?
The main points of accusation: human smuggling, espionage, forgery, illegal use of radio frequencies. Articles are serious, depending on the aggregate of crimes, the punishment implies a prison term of 5 to 25 years.
At various times, people who are now awaiting a court verdict have participated in rescue operations off the coast of Greece as volunteers. However, they are charged with the fact that they carried out the transportation of illegal migrants and only covered themselves with their alleged rescue from sea waters.
The prosecutor’s office claims that, specially joining the rescue teams, these people monitored the air of the Greek coast guard and, using the information received, took illegal immigrants deep into the island through “windows” – insufficiently controlled sections of the coast. According to prosecutors, the volunteers used cars with fake army license plates to drive through the cordons. Who are they?
Of the 24 defendants, 17 are foreigners. For example Sarah Mardini, a refugee from Syria, sister of the famous athlete Yusra Mardini, who is a member of the national swimming team. In 2016, Yusra participated in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as part of the national team of refugees. In 2015, refugee sisters rescued a distressed migrant boat by pushing it ashore.
Sara Mardini will take part in the court session via video link. She and her sister received refugee status in Germany and live there. Sarah really wanted to attend the court to prove her innocence, but the Greek authorities banned her from entering the country.
Another foreign defendant is Sean Binder. He claims that he was charged with a crime while he was outside Greece and was simply physically unable to commit it, reports the Irish channel RTE after an interview with him, quoting Sean:
“I am ready to defend myself, because I have done nothing wrong, and I can prove it.”
Binder was arrested in 2018 and spent 107 days behind bars in an Athenian prison, known in certain circles for its strict regime of detention. Then, before the trial, he was released and went home, where he works as a specialist in emergency diving. In Greece, Sean, despite the persuasions of his relatives, returned to the beginning of the process.
Over the years of the migration crisis, hundreds of people have been rescued by volunteers and coast guards. Many died before reaching the coveted shore, including children. Amnesty International, like other human rights and philanthropic organizations, describes the upcoming trial as a political farce. Neil Muiznieks, head of Amnesty International Europe, says:
“The charges brought against him are a complete farce. This is a very revealing case that demonstrates how far the Greek authorities are ready to go to stop the provision of assistance to refugees and migrants.”
The head of the organization warns that the flow of migrants cannot be stopped without providing assistance, this only makes their path more dangerous, capable of leading to human casualties.
Since last year, the Greek authorities have tightened the working conditions of human rights organizations across the country.