Greek Court Acquits Foreign NGO Staff of People Smuggling



The five volunteers celebrate outside the court

A criminal court on the Greek island of Lesvos has acquitted five foreign NGO workers who faced charges of trying to bring migrants into the country illegally

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 Jan. 14, 2016 at sea between Greece and Turkey as they were trying to help boats with migrants and refugees.

The lead prosecutor had proposed they be found guilty, but the court ruled that the five had not committed the crimes charged and it ordered 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.

Testimonies in their defense were also heard from Lesvos SYRIZA lawmaker Giorgos Pallis, an NGO captain of a rescue vessel plus an independent volunteer.

Supporters broke into applause after the ruling.

Earlier in the day, Amnesty International had issued a scathing condemnation of the case.

In a letter, campaign head Maria Serano had 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.

(Source: AMNA)