Greece Suspends Trial Of 24 Refugee Aid Workers

Aid workers were set to stand trial this week in Greece following accusations of espionage, and the disclosure of state secrets before the trial was immediately adjourned. The trial has received much criticism from many human rights groups, claiming the charges to be “absurd.”

Operating from the Greek island of Lesbos, twenty-four workers affiliated with the nonprofit search-and-rescue group known as the Emergency Response Center International (ERCI) face up to 25 years in prison due to their involvement with the organization from the years 2016 to 2018. Amnesty International’s European director Nils Muiznieks claimed the charges to be “farcical.” “This emblematic case demonstrates how far the Greek authorities will go to deter people from helping refugees and migrants,” Muiznieks shared in a statement.

“Today’s decision to adjourn the case to be tried at a higher court only compounds the grave human rights violations in this case,” said Giorgos Kosmopoulos, a senior campaigner for Amnesty.

According to Reuters, the workers are charged with espionage based on “a police report that they monitored Greek coast guard and Frontex radio channels and vessels, but the police report acknowledged the radio channels are not encrypted.” Furthermore, one of the defendants, a 73-year-old Dutchman by the name of Pieter Wittenberg, shared that he was helping refugees by cooking meals and handing out clothes. It seems clear that if Greek authorities cannot do anything about refugees arriving on their shores, they will begin targeting those who are there to pull the migrants to safety.

It is also important to note that the charges from this case date back to the heights of the European Migrant Crisis, which began back in 2015. The large influx of refugees and migrants into Europe has pushed many European countries to become incredibly strict with immigration laws and deterrence tactics. Nevertheless, it is well-documented how dangerous the journey from North Africa into Europe is, with over 14,000 reported deaths.