MITILENE, Greece ( Associated Press) — A group of 24 aid workers and volunteers who took part in an operation to rescue migrants on an eastern Greek island went on trial Tuesday in a human-trafficking case that was widely criticized by human rights advocates. was severely criticized.
The defendants denied all charges, saying that they only helped rescue people whose lives were in danger. The trial, which is taking place on the Greek island of Lesbos, began on Tuesday and was later postponed until Friday.
Prominent among the aid workers is Syrian human rights defender Sarah Mardini, a refugee and competitive swimmer whose sister Yusra Mardini was part of the refugee swimming team at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro and 2021 Tokyo Olympics. The Sisters’ Story is the subject of a Netflix movie.
Mardini, who was not present at Tuesday’s hearing, and his colleague Sean Binder, also a volunteer, spent more than three months in prison in Lesbos in 2018 for minor offenses including espionage, counterfeiting and illegal use of radio frequencies .
The case was initially scheduled for 2021, but was postponed due to procedural issues. Both are also under investigation for felony assault, but so far no such charges have been filed.
“What is being judged today are human rights. This is the fundamental problem,” Binder declared outside the court before the hearing on Tuesday.
Binder said, “We look forward to going to trial because what we did was legal.” “And we need the judge to recognize that we have to get out of this, because until then, there is a shadow of doubt about not only me, but anyone who does the search and rescue.”
Bekatoros reported from Athens.