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Aid employees face trial in Greece for spying after refugee rescues

Twenty-four folks affiliated with the Emergency Response Center International (ERCI), a nonprofit search-and-rescue group that operated on Lesbos from 2016 to 2018, withstand eight years in jail when the trial begins on Thursday.

They additionally face felony fees together with folks smuggling, belonging to a prison group and cash laundering, which carry 25-year jail sentences.

Amnesty International’s European director Nils Muiznieks mentioned the fees had been “farcical.”

“This emblematic case demonstrates how far the Greek authorities will go to deter people from helping refugees and migrants,” he mentioned in an announcement.

Human Rights Watch referred to as the trial “politically motivated.”

Among these to be tried is Sarah Mardini, a Syrian refugee who took an overcrowded dingy to Greece along with her sister Yusra in 2015, on the top of Europe’s refugee disaster, and saved the opposite 19 passengers by pulling their sinking boat to shore for 4 hours.

Mardini and one other volunteer, Sean Binder, a German nationwide, had been arrested in 2018 and spent 107 days in Athens’s most safety jail in pre-trial detention.

Both left Greece after they had been launched, and Binder has returned regardless of his misgivings in regards to the trial.

“I never for a moment thought that trying to help somebody out at sea would land you in prison,” Binder advised Reuters in Athens. “I’m terrified of going back to prison.”

He mentioned he had been handcuffed in jail to a person who had dedicated double murder by burning somebody alive.

“It is frightening to be going there again and I’m not confident that, just because there is absolutely no evidence of any wrongdoing… I’m still not confident that we will not be found guilty,” he mentioned.

Mardini, who now lives in Germany, has been barred from re-entering Greece and might be represented by a lawyer.

“It’s mind boggling why someone cannot attend their own trial,” mentioned Giorgos Kosmopoulos, a senior campaigner for Amnesty, calling on authorities to drop the fees throughout a solidarity protest exterior Greek parliament.

Binder, a rescue diver, mentioned he had solely meant to volunteer for some time.

“It wasn’t my plan to spend the rest of my life doing this, to be some kind of champion,” he mentioned.

“If you saw someone drowning you would do the same as me, you would reach out a hand, pull them out, and that’s the exact same crime that I’m accused of doing.”

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