German FM asks Italy to release Sea Watch skipper

German govt had said can't intervene in Italian justice

(ANSA) - Berlin, July 1 - German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday asked Italy to release Sea-Watch3 captain Carola Rackete who is being held on charges of abetting immigration and ramming a police cutter.
    At the end of a rule of law process, he said "from our standpoint there can only be the release of Carola Rackete: I will clarify this yet again to Italy," he said on Facebook.
    Maas reiterated that Germany is "against criminalising the activities of rescue at sea" and said that at a European level "the haggling over the redistribution of migrants is shameful and must end".
    Germany said earlier Monday it cannot intervene in the case despite a plea from Rackete's father. "We cannot intervene on Italian justice," government spokeswoman Martina Fiez said.
    But she reiterated that Berlin is "against the criminalisation of sea rescuers".
    Fiez said "the charges must be verified, and we are following the situation very attentively." She said that "the German government is currently working for a European solution".
    Italian foreign ministry sources have said that more than four EU countries are willing to take some of the 40 Sea-Watch migrants, including France, Germany, Luxembourg and Portugal.
    Rackete's father said earlier he hoped the German government would intervene on behalf of his daughter.
    Carola Rackete, 30, forced a ban Saturday to land her 40 migrants on the island of Lampedusa saying she was afraid some might commit suicide after being at sea for 17 days following a rescue off Libya.
    Rackete now faces a prison term of between three and 10 years for ignoring Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's closed-ports policy and hitting a Guardia di Finanza ship, which she said she could not avoid and had not rammed deliberately.
    Carola's father Ekkehart Rackete told the DPA news agency that he thought "the international pressure on the Italian government will make the difference" and get his daughter released.
    He said Italy was governed by "the rule of law" and he was not worried about Carola, with whom he had spoken by phone on Sunday.
    "She is good fun as always and she seemed tranquil to me," he said.
    The captain has become a hero to those opposed to Salvini's policy and a villain to those who support it.
    The Sea-Watch3 is run by the German migrant rescue NGO Sea-Watch and flies a Dutch flag.
    Rackete left Lampedusa Sunday for Agrigento where she will be questioned Monday ahead of the ratification of her house-arrest warrant.


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