Human trafficking charges dropped against NGOs after Soros-backed plea
A criminal court on the Greek island of Lesvos has acquitted five foreign NGO workers who were facing charges of human trafficking.
Published: May 10, 2018, 8:59 am
Three Spanish firemen, members of the NGO Proem-Aid, and two Danes, members of the NGO Team Humanity, were first arrested by port authority staff on January 14, 2016 at sea between Greece and Turkey.
Proem-Aid, from Seville and SMH from Gipuzkoa work together during summer in the “Mediterranean death corridor” off the Libyan coast to bring migrants to Europe.
The lead prosecutor had proposed they be found guilty, but the court ruled that the five had not committed the crimes they had been charged with. The Greek judge ordered that they be allowed to leave the country, and have all guarantee deposits returned to them.
Their trial attracted the interest of European media and was attended by observers from every Spanish party, while the interior minister of the autonomous region of Andalusia testified as witness in their defense, Greek news agency AMNA reported.
Testimonies in their defense were also heard from Lesvos SYRIZA lawmaker Giorgos Pallis, an NGO captain of a rescue vessel together with an independent volunteer.
Supporters of the NGOs broke into applause after the ruling. Earlier in the day, Amnesty International had issued a scathing condemnation of the case brought against the alleged human traffickers in Greece.
But a huge donation from an organisation funded by the billionaire George Soros helped boost Amnesty International operating surplus by 70 per cent in at least one country this year.
There has been a stand-off between the Irish Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) and Amnesty after a ruling that the funding by Soros was in breach of the 1997 Electoral Act. The legislation bans overseas donations of more than €100 from third party organisations for “political purposes”. The funds came from the Open Society Foundations (OSF).
In a letter, Amnesty campaign chief Maria Serano said the three Spanish firemen were on Lesvos to put their skills to use and save children, women and men from drowning. The NGOs’ efforts to save lives at sea should be praised and supported, she added.
“This is a strong signal to other NGOs and just people working for humanity,” one of the Danish defendants, Salam Aldeen, the founder of Team Humanity, told the New York Times after the verdict. “Saving lives is not a crime, rescuing people is not a crime.”
The other “Dane”, Mohammed el-Abassi, who also worked for Team Humanity, volunteered with the three Spanish firefighters. Together they faced as many as 15 years in prison.
Verónica Pérez, a Spanish Socialist politician who had also travelled to Greece, told the NYT: “Humanitarian aid should never be condemned or sentenced but instead the opposite: It should be valued.”
Helping migrants cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey into Greece, is peddled as a “humanitarian effort”, but these actions have real demographic and political implications for the nations that end up receiving the migrants.
The acquittal was made possible because of the intervention by two different European governments and at least one international “humanitarian” organisation with Soros’ backing.
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