The espionage trial of 24 aid workers in Greece has begun
On Thursday, more than two dozen charity workers will face charges related to their participation in assisting migrants in gaining entry to Greece between 2016 and 2018.
Espionage, forgery, and the unauthorised use of radio frequencies are among the charges that the accused face.
Human rights organisations have criticised the trial as politically motivated, with Amnesty International calling the allegations “farcical.”
The trial will take place on Lesbos, the island at the heart of the migrant crisis.
Sarah Mardini, the sister of Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini, is one of the 24 accused, 17 of whom are foreign nationals. In 2015, the siblings made headlines after towing their refugee boat to safety after the engine failed. She has been denied entry to Greece to defend herself, forcing her to watch the trial from Germany, where she has been given asylum.
Prosecutors claim that the charity workers, who were linked with a search and rescue organisation, listened in on the Greek Coast Guard’s radio channels and entered restricted regions on Lesbos in a vehicle with false military licence plates.
They might be sentenced to five years in prison if found guilty.
Some are also being investigated for a variety of other crimes, including human smuggling, and may face further sentences of up to 25 years if convicted.
“I am happy to defend myself. I know I did not do anything wrong, and we can prove that. I’m being charged with crimes that happened a year before I arrived on the island,” he continued. Sean Binder, an Irish relief worker facing trial, told Irish station RTÉ.
The trial takes place as Greece’s conservative government, led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, cracks down on human rights organisations to limit the number of migrants who enter the country.
Last year, it imposed stricter criteria for the functioning of dozens of international relief organisations, which opponents say makes it more difficult for them to operate in the country.