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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 this week with aiding and abetting illegal immigration.
The prosecutor’s office in the Sicilian city of Trapani announced on Wednesday that it had brought the charges against 21 individuals and three NGOs.
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. Then on August 2 2017 the police seized the ship while it was docked in Lampedusa. Soon after 10 members of the crew were put under investigation.
On Wednesday night the Iuventa 10 campaign group, which fights for the freedom of the 10 crew members under investigation, announced that charges had finally been brought against them.
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.”
Prosecutors in Ragusa earlier this week also brought similar charges against Mediterranea: Saving Humans, an Italian NGO that operates the Mare Jonio refugee rescue ship.
The Ragusa prosecutor alleges that the charity received payment from Danish shipping giant Maersk last September when the Mare Jonio transferred 27 refugees stuck on board one of the company’s chemical tankers for five weeks after Malta refused to allow the ship to come ashore and brought them to Italy.
Both Maersk and Mediterranea: Saving Humans deny the charges.
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