NGO Workers Facing 25 Years in Prison for Helping Illegal Immigrants in Greece
The NGO works were involved in transporting migrants
24 NGO workers accused of aiding illegal migration and people trafficking are on trial in Greece and could face up to 25 years behind bars.
Members of the group Emergency Response Center International (ERCI) are now facing prison time for their alleged activities.
The NGO works were involved in transporting migrants trying to cross illegally by boat to Lesboz between 2016 and 2018.
Greek prosecutors argue the group is a criminal organization, claiming it was involved in human trafficking, money laundering, espionage, and disclosing state secrets.
Rights groups called the legal proceedings “grotesque” and claimed that the case “shows how far the Greek authorities are willing to go to discourage people from helping refugees and migrants.”
The group Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the trial is “politically motivated.”
One of the defendants in the case, Syrian migrant Sarah Mardini, had been placed in pre-trial detention for three months in 2018.
She helped rescue 20 passengers of an adrift boat along with her sister in 2015.
Mardini, who lives in Germany, has been banned from entering Greece and will be represented in court by a lawyer.
German national Sean Binder was also arrested and spent 107 days in a maximum security facility in pre-trial detention.
Binder left Greece but later returned for the trial.
"I feel angry," Sean Binder, a rescue diver who grew up in Ireland, told Reuters outside the court.
"I feel angry that the legal requirement to try and help people in distress out at sea is being criminalized right now.
"I am angry because there is not a shred of evidence against us."
Neon Nettle reported last year that a German non-governmental organization (NGO), Sea Watch, called on the European Union to use luxury cruise ships to deliver migrants from Greece.
Sea Watch pressured the EU to use luxury vessels to transport illegal immigrants into the center of Europe in a bid to tackle the ongoing migrant crisis.
Meanwhile, another German charity, Mission Lifeline, planned to move migrant children from the Greek camps to Berlin on charter flights.
The charity has already raised funds for the effort and is now only waiting on permits from the German government to proceed.