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

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

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



CNN

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

Irish-German national Sean Binder and 23 other aid workers were acquitted by a court on the island of Lesbos on Friday, but criminal charges against the group remain pending.

A court in the island’s capital, Mytilene, has halted the prosecution of some misdemeanor charges because of “procedural irregularities” in the investigation, Binder’s lawyer Zacharias Kessas told the court.

“They recognized that there are some procedural irregularities that prevent the court from proceeding to the gist of the charge, so when it comes to misconduct, someone might say the charges are dropped,” Kessas said.

“But we can’t be happy about that because actually they just realized what we’ve been shouting about for the last four years, so there’s still a long way to go to reach the final step, which is crime still going on and the investigation is still ongoing.”

A statement from Amnesty International on Friday said that the court in Lesbos “referred the indictment back to the prosecutor due to procedural shortcomings, including a failure to translate the indictment.”

Binder and Syrian refugee Sarah Mardini were arrested in 2018 after participating in several search and rescue operations with the non-profit Emergency Response Center International near Lesbos, an island in the Aegean Sea.

According to a statement from the UN Human Rights Office, the group was charged with four charges that the Greek judicial authorities classified as “misdemeanors”: espionage, disclosure of state secrets, unlawful use of radio frequencies and forgery.

The court’s move was welcomed by the human rights group and politicians.

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

A 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 “to drop all charges against all defendants.”

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

“Good news from Greece. We just heard that Sean Binder and other humanitarian workers have had their charges dropped,” she said.

While the misconduct charges were dropped on Friday, an investigation into the allegations of wrongdoing against humanitarian workers remains ongoing, Amnesty International said in a statement.

According to a report by the European Parliament published in June 2021, humanitarian workers have been charged with aiding smuggling networks, belonging to a criminal organization and laundering money – charges that carry up to 25 years in prison if found guilty.

Referring to the ongoing felony allegations, O’Sullivan said, although they did not know how long it would last, “today is actually a step in the right direction. A step towards justice.

“We just want justice. We want the case to go to trial and it doesn’t look like that will happen anytime soon given what happened today,” Binder said outside the courthouse.

“At the same time, we were lucky to have so much support internationally, everywhere, and I think it forced the prosecution to at least acknowledge the mistakes they made and at least to some extent the injustice was less. ”

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