UN asks Greece to drop all charges against refugees

ATHENS: The United Nations has called on Greece to drop all charges against 24 migrant rescue workers accused of espionage, as hearings of a long-delayed trial resumed on Friday on the island of Lesbos.
Those on trial include prominent Syrian human rights worker Sarah Mardini, a refugee and competitive swimmer whose sister Yusra Mardini was part of the refugee swimming team at the Olympic Games in 2016 and 2021. The Syrian siblings were celebrated for their efforts to save 18 fellow passengers when they helped drag their sinking refugee dinghy to safety on the journey from Turkey to Greece in 2015. Their story was later turned into the Netflix film – The Swimmers.
“Trials like these are deeply concerning because they criminalise life-saving work and set a dangerous precedent. Indeed, there has already been a chilling effect,” UN rights office spokeswoman Liz Throssell told reporters at a briefing in Geneva, calling for “all charges against all defendants” to be dropped. The Greek and foreign defendants argue they were doing nothing more than assisting people whose lives were at risk.
Their lawyers have objected to the procedures followed by the prosecution, which could lead to the court on the island of Lesbos ordering prosecutors to refile the case.
Mardini, who was not present for Friday’s hearing, and fellow volunteer Sean Binder, who was in Lesbos to attend the trial, spent more than three months in jail on the Greek island after their 2018 arrest on misdemeanour charges that included espionage, forgery and unlawful use of radio frequencies.
The two are also under investigation for felony offences, but prosecutors have not brought any of the more serious charges against them. –Agencies