Four Humanitarian Volunteers Released on Bail

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An investigative judge on Thursday ruled that four humanitarian activists should be released on bail as the charges that led to their arrest are debatable, according to the organization Human Rights Watch.

The four volunteers were arrested because their search-and-rescue operations were perceived by Greek authorities as acts of a migrant-smuggling ring. In addition, their fundraising activities could be considered money laundering, according to the Human Rights Watch report.

Among those released is 23-year-old Syrian refugee Sarah Mardini, who arrived in Greece by boat from Turkey in 2015. When the boat’s engine failed, she and her younger sister  saved the lives of other refugees by swimming and helping to keep the boat afloat until it reached the Greek island of Lesvos.

Her sister later went on to represent the “Refugee” team at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Mardini, along with Greek nationals Nassos Karakitsos and Panos Moraitis, and another foreign volunteer, Sean Binder, had been held in prolonged pretrial detention. They were under scrutiny for their work with the nonprofit organization Emergency Response Center International, founded by Moraitis.

According to Human Rights Watch, Mardini took a semester off from her studies at Bard College in Berlin in order to return to Lesvos and work as a volunteer. She and Binder, 24, a German national, were arrested on August 21, 2018, just as she was about to fly back to Germany.

After being held in pretrial detention for more than one hundred days, they are now finally free on bail, and will be allowed to leave Greece.

However, the case against them is still open. Mardini and Binder still must stand trial, and the criminal charges that they face carry potential sentences of decades in prison.