Today, the Supreme Court of Greece will hear an appeal by a prosecutor that could result in the misdemeanours case against refugee rescue volunteers Sarah Mardini and Seán Binder back to court for a new trial. Ahead of the hearing, Adriana Tidona, Migration Researcher at Amnesty International, said:
“Sarah Mardini and Seán Binder should never have been put on trial for their human rights work. They were simply volunteering on the Greek shoreline, helping refugees and migrants at risk of drowning at sea, when they were arrested in 2018. Several human rights defenders similarly face criminalization for their work with refugees and migrants while this case has already had a chilling effect that may deter others from doing the same.”
“This appeal is only further prolonging Sarah and Sean’s ordeal. The misdemeanour offences they face include charges of espionage and forgery which can carry sentences of up to eight years in prison. In addition, the two humanitarians have also been subjected to an ongoing investigation since 2018 for unfounded felony charges carrying up to 20 years in prison.
Amnesty International is once again urging the Greek authorities to drop all charges against Sarah and Seán. Not only are they based on an abusive interpretation of anti-smuggling legislation, but they are also not backed up by any evidence whatsoever.Adriana Tidona, Migration Researcher
Seán Binder said “In January the three judges of the appeals court and the prosecutor agreed that the indictment against us should be dismissed. They rightly concluded that we have a right to be communicated with in a language we understand. This is necessary for a fair trial and the rule of law. Now, another prosecutor has appealed this decision. We now find ourselves in front of the Supreme Court. We are confident that we will get a fair trial and the court will uphold the decision to dismiss the indictment against us. But if the Supreme Court sides with the prosecutor, then we fear our right to a fair trial is being denied.”
The appeal hearing will take place on 16 May 2023 although the Court is not expected to issue a decision on that date. Sarah Mardini and Seán Binder will not be present at the hearing.
In January 2023, the Court of Appeal of Mytilene found procedural flaws in the relevant summons, including a lack of translation. The Court of Appeal’s ruling resulted in the summons being annulled and in the relevant case against Sarah and Seán being rejected. In February 2023, a Supreme Court Deputy Prosecutor appealed the decision.
Should the Prosecutor’s appeal be successful, the misdemeanour trial will start anew and the statute of limitations for these charges will be extended by three years.