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Greece, trial against pro-migrant activists annulled

Over procedural flaws - 24 defendants relieved but angry

13 January, 17:55

    (ANSAmed) - ATHENS, JANUARY 13 - The tribunal of the island of Lesvos has annulled a trial on spying charges against Syrian activist and refugee Sarah Mardini and 23 humanitarian operators of the NGO Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI) over "procedural flaws", ending what has been described by several observers as "the most significant case of criminalization of solidarity in Europe". The decision was taken after a few procedural flaws highlighted by the activists' defence team, including the fact that the indictment of foreign defendants had not been translated.

    Shortly before the decision on Friday morning the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR spoke about the case. "This type of trial is truly concerning, because it criminalizes actions that save people's lives and creates a dangerous precedent", said Elizabeth Throssell, UNHCR spokesperson, during a regular UN briefing in Geneva.

    "This is not justice - justice would have been a trial that acquitted us four years ago", commented in a video published on Twitter German-Irish activist Sea Binder outside the court in Lesvos after the announcement that the trial was annulled.

    Binder, together with Syrian refugee Sarah Mardini, became a symbol of the campaign promoted by Amnesty International to ask for the acquittal of activists involved in the trial which was described as a "farce" and the "greatest case of criminalization of solidarity in Europe", regarding facts that occurred in 2018.

    Contrary to Binder, Mardini was not in court because Greece does not allow her to enter for national security reasons. After fleeing Damascus with her sister in 2015, she obtained the status of refugee in Germany but returned to the Greek island to take part as a volunteer in rescue operations of migrants, until she was arrested in 2018 with Binder and spent more than three months in a Greek prison before being released on bail. Her story, together with her sister Yusra's, who as a swimmer took part in the Olympic Games of Rio and Tokyo, inspired the Netflix film The Swimmers.

    "After four years in limbo we have finally received some positive news, but this is not justice: if the same strategy of lengthy postponements and procedural flaws is applied to the remaining charges, we could wait another 15 years to prove our innocence", said the movement Free Humanitarians, which was created to demand the acquittal of the activists, commenting on Twitter the court's decision. The humanitarian operators are still being investigated on human trafficking and criminal association charges and risk up to 25 years in jail, according to Amnesty International.(ANSAmed).

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