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Charges brought against activists who saved the lives of over 14,000 people at sea

‘As governments continue to break their own laws,’ the former captain of the Iuventa refugee rescue ship says, the accusation they aided illegal immigration ‘are a joke’

ACTIVISTS who saved the lives of over 14,000 people in the Mediterranean Sea could be jailed for 20 years after an Italian prosecutor charged them today with aiding and abetting illegal immigration.

The prosecutor’s office in the Sicilian city of Trapani brought the charges against 21 individuals and three NGOs: Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Jugend Rettet.

Between August 2016 and August 2017, the activists took part in around 16 life-saving missions on board the refugee rescue ship Iuventa.

In September 2016, the Italian secret services began spying on the ship.

The ship was seized by the Italian police on Lampedusa on August 2, 2017 — after the Maltese authorities had ordered the crew to take the 150 people they had saved that day there. Soon after 10 members of the crew were then put under investigation.

Not much had been heard of the investigation until today.

The Iuventa 10 campaign group, which fights for the freedom of the 10 crew members under investigation, said the charges have already been disproven.

In a press release, the group said: “The main so-called ‘eyewitness’ who collected evidence against the Iuventa crew publicly revoked his testimony. He then stated to the press that he had been promised a job within the Italian right party [The League] in exchange for his witness statement.

“Furthermore, through a detailed reconstruction of events, renowned team of scientists Forensic Architecture, disproved the thesis of the prosecution in a public analysis of Iuventa operations.”

The group’s lawyer Francesca Cancellaro said they will prove that all the operations of the Iuventa crew were absolutely lawful.

“While the EU turned away from the Mediterranean transforming it into a mass grave for Europe’s undesirables, the crew of the Iuventa headed to sea as volunteers, in order to protect the fundamental rights to life and to seek asylum, as required by international law and before that by human solidarity.”

Dariush Beigui, the Iuventa’s captain, said that as long as governments continue to break their own laws, international conventions and maritime law, the accusations against the Iuventa 10 are a joke.

“It would be funny,” he said, if this joke didn’t mean death, distress and misery for the people on the move.”

Mr Beigui told The Civil Fleet last night: “I will use every opportunity that this political show process will offer me to say what is going on in Fortress Europe. When right becomes wrong, resistance becomes a duty.

“On the Mediterranean, the Balkan route and in the refugee camps, laws are broken every day by state actors. Illegal pushbacks, failure to provide assistance, disregard for human rights, drowning, torture, abuse, the list is long…. We are ready to fight.”

The Iuventa’s former head of mission Sascha Girke said: “Although we stand accused, it is us who accuse European authorities of refusing safe passage and of letting people drown.”

Correction: This article originally stated that Matteo Salvini was Italian interior minister in 2017. He was not. He didn’t assume that role until 2018. Apologies for the mistake.

Published by The Civil Fleet

A news blog and podcast focused on the activist-led refugee rescue and support missions across Fortress Europe

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