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Greece drops some charges against activists who saved refugees at sea

Syrian Sarah Mardini, whose life was made into a Netflix film about how she and her sister swam the boat of refugees they were on to safety, is among the defendants who may still face charges of espionage and people smuggling

January 13, 2023 at 5:37 pm

A court on the Greek island of Lesvos today suspended proceedings against 24 aid workers accused of espionage, ending a controversial trial that was criticised by the UN and rights groups for condemning volunteers who were helping refugees in danger.

The court in Mytilini, the largest city of the island in the Aegean Sea, announced that it made the decision due to procedural flaws.

However, another case against the same humanitarian workers is still ongoing in Greece for migrant smuggling, money laundering and fraud.

“This is not justice! Justice would be if we were acquitted!” said Sean Binder, one of the main defendants.

The volunteers were charged with helping migrants on the island, one of the main entry points for refugees into Europe. Among them was Syrian Sarah Mardini, who with her sister, Olympic swimmer Yusra, inspired the Netflix film about their escape to Europe called The Swimmers.

Sarah was arrested in 2018 and spent three months in prison before being released on bail. She was not in the courtroom today as a result of a ban on her entry to Greece.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations previously asked the Greek judiciary to drop all charges against the humanitarians. However, the defendants may still face charges.
As a result of the case, many NGOs ceased rescue operations in Greek waters, leaving migrants and asylum seekers at greater risk of death at sea.

READ: Syria swimmer who inspired Netflix film to stand trial in Greece on human smuggling charges