Defendants who saved refugees face 25 years in prison – they’re asking us to take action

Sean, Sara, Nassos are being prosecuted in Greece for saving refugees' lives
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Activists who helped save refugees’ lives are facing up to 25 years in prison in Greece, and they’re calling on all of us to take urgent action.

Sara Mardini from Syria, Seán Binder from Ireland, and Nassos Karakitsos from Greece, along with 21 others, helped thousands of people to safely reach Greek shores between 2016 and 2018. The people seeking refuge – from Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries – had taken the perilous sea crossing from the coast of Turkey to the island of Lesbos on overcrowded dinghies.

It is, of course, anyone’s moral and legal duty to save people from drowning. However, the Greek authorities think otherwise, and are intent on sending the activists to prison. The prosecution has charged Sara, Seán, and Nassos with crimes including espionage and facilitating illegal entry.

Tormenting the defendants for five years

The case against the defendants has been dragging on for five years. This has put the activists’ lives on hold all this time, as they do not know their fate. Seán, Sara, and Nassos have already spent 108 days in pre-trial detention. On top of this, the defendants have appeared in court twice on the misdemeanour charges – once in January 2023, and previously in November 2021. However, in both instances, the court dismissed the case after the prosecution made a succession of errors.

The defendants celebrated too soon when a court dropped the charges in January. Little did they know that the prosecution was set to appeal the decision. If the Supreme Court accepts the appeal on 16 May, the defendants will return for a new trial, facing misdemeanour charges once again.

On top of this, they’re facing separate felony charges. If found guilty of ‘facilitating the illegal entry of asylum seekers, they could each face 20 years in prison.

Make noise on 16 May

So, the defendants are calling on all of us to make as much noise as possible on 16 May. They and their supporters formed the group Free Humanitarians. It said:

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The more people know about the case, and put pressure on the Greek authorities to be accountable to their own laws, the better the chance is that Seán, Sara, Nassos, and the other defendants will walk free.

They continued:

On the 16th of May, we want as many people or groups as we can muster to create actions, demonstrations, or events in their local areas. We want people to speak out about the injustice in our case, and also against a legal system that is being applied unjustly as default. For every indictment the prosecution has failed to translate for us, for every time they have imprisoned us, or weaponised the law against us, there are many more cases where refugees and asylum seekers are facing the same thing, but with less support and media attention. We want as many communities to know what is happening in Greece, and across Europe.

Banner drop, demonstration, or outreach meeting

Free Humanitarians has made suggestions about actions you can take on 16 May:

An action or event could be anything from: a group of people leafleting and doing outreach at a coffee morning about the campaign, to a banner drop with speeches and chants. It could be a learning circle, or a march. You can organise an action or event like this on your own, but getting in contact with local groups who might be interested in participating is a good way to ensure that everything gets done!

If you, or your group, want to organise an action or event in your local area, please let us know via the Google form linked here.

It has also asked you to think about your messaging, and only use slogans that they have approved:

As we are a campaign relating to a criminal trial, there are a few hoops we have to jump through as an organisation, in order to keep the defendants safe from the authorities. For this reason, we ask that only content made or approved by us uses the Free Humanitarians logo, or claims to speak as Free Humanitarians.

Saving refugees’ lives is not a crime

Through this prosecution, Greece’s state has been successful in scaring off other NGOs and grassroots groups from assisting refugees and those seeking asylum in Lesbos. But as the defendants say, “humanitarianism is not a crime”. The Greek state criminalising people saving lives should outrage us all.

Free Humanitarians said:

We have to stand together. We have to tell the people closest to us what is going on. If every person brings one person, this is how we grow a movement.

Free Humanitarians has compiled a Google Drive of documents, along with a starter pack, to help you plan your action. You can open it here.

Featured images via Free Humanitarians

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Get involved

Free Humanitarians has compiled a Google Drive of documents, along with a starter pack, to help you plan your action. You can open it here.

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