Athens, Greece – Twenty-four defendants are anticipated to go on trial on the Greek island of Lesbos on Tuesday in reference to their work with refugees, in what specialists have described as “the biggest case of criminalization of solidarity” in Europe.
Rights teams have additionally criticized the authorized proceedings as chaotic, complicated and farcical.
While a number of the 24 have been charged with espionage and forgery, others are accused of illegally listening to radio frequencies.
And whereas some perceive what fees they face, others stay at midnight as a result of they’re listed in official paperwork by quantity, not identify, based on Human Rights Watch — considered one of a number of organizations that criticized the trial. is of.
All the defendants, who come from a number of completely different international locations together with Greece, deny the allegations in opposition to them.
The case, which has been occurring for years and will take months to conclude, is a part of a worsening battle between Greek authorities and civil society.
Since the peak of the refugee disaster, Greece, which has taken in hundreds fleeing conflict and poverty for years, has more and more cracked down on and scrutinized teams and activists some have accused of trafficking. Meanwhile, rights teams have accused Greek authorities of mistreating the refugees and illegally pushing them again out to sea.
Sara Mardini, sister of Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini, was additionally among the many accused in Tuesday’s listening to.
Syrian siblings have been celebrated for his or her efforts to avoid wasting 18 fellow passengers after they helped pull their sinking refugee boat to security on a visit from Turkey to Greece in 2015. His story was later become a Netflix movie, “The Swimmers”.
Yusra went on to swim on the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and Sarah, after receiving refugee standing in Germany, returned to Lesbos to volunteer with refugees arriving on the island’s shores.
“I thought I could offer something there. It was just a passion of mine for other people,” Sarah mentioned in a current interview of her time volunteering on the Greek island.
In August 2018, nevertheless, she was arrested together with Sean Binder, a German nationwide, when each have been working for the ERCI (Emergency Response Center International) NGO, a search and rescue group.
Mardini and Binder have been held in pre-trial custody for 106 days earlier than being launched.
Greek authorities allege that Mardini and Binder have been amongst those that monitored Greek Coast Guard radio channels and used jeeps with faux army plates.
Mardini might withstand eight years in jail for espionage.
The espionage allegations check with the defendants’ use of an “encrypted messaging service” – the favored communications app, WhatsApp.
The Greek authorities had not responded to Al Jazeera’s request for remark on the time of publication.
The 24 defendants additionally face a separate investigation on fees together with smuggling and cash laundering, through which they haven’t but been charged. He might withstand 25 years in jail on these fees.
‘Unfair and baseless allegations’
Tuesday’s proceedings relate to misdemeanor allegations and are the second try to carry a trial. The first was adjourned abruptly in November 2021 when the court docket felt it didn’t have jurisdiction over one of many defendants, a lawyer, and needed to refer the matter to a better authority.
Mardini, who was beforehand banned from coming into Greece, is not going to be current in court docket.
Binder, who can be current, cited the lacking web page of the indictment, saying there nonetheless look like critical points within the case.
“If we are found guilty of espionage because we used WhatsApp, if we are facilitators of illegal entry because we conducted search and rescue, if we are money launderers because we worked as a charity, then no Anyone who carries out search and rescue who works for a charity, or who uses WhatsApp will be guilty of these crimes,” he mentioned, including that the case has had a profound influence on humanitarian work in Europe.
Giorgos Kosmopoulos, senior campaigner on migration at Amnesty International, instructed Al Jazeera: “Sarah and Sean’s ordeal reveals Greece’s efforts to maintain refugees and migrants away by any means, together with these in want. Will assist them within the hour.
“The charges against him are unfair and baseless and should be dropped so that he can continue with his life.”
Comparisons have been made between the Greek episode and the continuing prosecution of members of the Iuventa search and rescue ship in Italy, the place NGO activists withstand 20 years in jail for “facilitating illegal immigration”.
“This is an official attempt to criminalize humanitarian aid,” Zakarias Kesses, a lawyer for Mardini and Binder, instructed Al Jazeera. “The police created a totally chaotic prison file with none proof, based mostly solely on arbitrary conjectures.
“They preserve renaming humanitarian help as facilitating migrant smuggling.
She highlighted the influence on some defendants, saying: “A lot of time has been lost and a lot of people are in shock and there is a serious problem going on with their lives.”
Bill van Asveld, affiliate youngsters’s rights director at Human Rights Watch, mentioned the case “turned the laws and facts on their head and put at stake the independence of humanitarians from across the European Union.”
Grace O’Sullivan, an Irish member of the European Parliament, mentioned: “Search and rescue in Greece has all but stopped and we have seen many reports of Greek authorities illegally pushing refugees back to Turkey.”
Greek officers have denied involvement within the unlawful pushback, which has been documented by rights teams and journalists.
O’Sullivan mentioned he hoped authorities would “dismiss these ridiculous allegations as a first step”.
He is considered one of greater than 80 politicians within the European Parliament who’ve signed a letter in help of the defendants.
,[It’s] A risk to all of us and a risk to the thought of ’so-known as’ European values,” mentioned Binder, who grew up in Ireland. “I feel there may be rather more at stake [here] in comparison with a bunch of 24 humanists.
The check is anticipated to begin at round 9am (07:00 GMT).
[Disclaimer: This story was automatically generated by a computer program and was not created or edited by Journalpur Staff. Publisher: Journalpur.com]