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Upcoming trial of migrant rights defenders Seán Binder, Sarah Mardini and Nassos Karakitsos

Status: 
On Trial
About the situation

On 18 November 2021, the trial of Seán Binder, Sarah Mardini and Nassos Karakitsos will start at the Mytilene Misdemeanor Court in Lesvos. All three human rights defenders are accused of “people smuggling”, “money laundering”, “espionage” and “membership in a criminal organisation” and if convicted, they may face up to 25 years in prison.

About the HRD

Seán BinSean Binderder, Sarah Mardini and Nassos Karakitsos are migrant rights defenders who worked with Emergency Response Center International (ERCI) between 2016 and 2018. The humanitarian work of the ERCI was extensive, and included supporting more than 1000 people to reach safety, organising workshops and swimming classes for children in Kara Tepe camp for migrants, and providing residents in Moria camp in Lesbos with medical assistance. ERCI was registered as a non-governmental organisation and regularly cooperated with Greek authorities, including with the Greek Coast Guard on rescue operations.

17 November 2021
Upcoming trial of migrant rights defenders Seán Binder, Sarah Mardini and Nassos Karakitsos

On 18 November 2021, the trial of Seán Binder, Sarah Mardini and Nassos Karakitsos will start at the Mytilene Misdemeanor Court in Lesvos. All three human rights defenders are accused of “people smuggling”, “money laundering”, “espionage” and “membership in a criminal organisation” and if convicted, they may face up to 25 years in prison.

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Seán Binder, Sarah Mardini and Nassos Karakitsos are migrant rights defenders who worked with Emergency Response Center International (ERCI) between 2016 and 2018. The humanitarian work of the ERCI was extensive, and included supporting more than 1000 people to reach safety, organising workshops and swimming classes for children in Kara Tepe camp for migrants, and providing residents in Moria camp in Lesbos with medical assistance. ERCI was registered as a non-governmental organisation and regularly cooperated with Greek authorities, including with the Greek Coast Guard on rescue operations.

On 18 November 2021, the trial of Seán Binder, Sarah Mardini and Nassos Karakitsos will start at the Mytilene Misdemeanor Court in Lesvos. All three migrant rights defenders are accused of “people smuggling”, “money laundering”, “espionage” and “membership in a criminal organisation”. If found guilty, they will face up to 25 years imprisonment. Sarah Mardini was arrested on 21 August 2018 while leaving from Lesvos airport to Germany for the beginning of her second student year in Berlin. On the same day, Seán Binder went to police custody voluntarily to meet with Sara Mardini and was arrested himself. Nassos Karakitsos was arrested in the following days. They were detained for 106 days in jail in Greece before being released on bail. During her imprisonment, Sarah Mardini was placed in solitary confinement and continued to receive death threats after her release on bail. As a result of their criminalisation, the ERCI stopped its human rights activities. The three human rights defenders reported the negative impact their criminalisation has had on their personal and professional situation, as well as their mental health.

The case of Seán Binder, Sarah Mardini and Nassos Karakitsos is not isolated, another 21 people are included in their court case. Moreover, in October 2020, Greek authorities opened a criminal investigation into four international humanitarian organisations assisting refugees and migrants, namely Mare Liberum, FFM (Forschungsgesellschaft Flucht und Migration), Sea Watch and Josoor on charges of “espionage, smuggling and participation in a criminal organisation”. The only source of information about the investigation was the press published by the Lesvos Police Directorate on 28 September 2020. The criminal file and the names of NGOs under investigation were leaked to Greek media outlets and triggered a smear campaign against the NGOs, including allegations of imminent arrest of its members. At the time of writing, the file has been sent to the judge and none of the individuals concerned have received any official communication regarding the ongoing investigation against them.

Front Line Defenders is concerned about the ongoing criminal prosecution of Seán Binder, Sarah Mardini and Nassos Karakitsos as it believes it is solely linked to their peaceful and legitimate work in defence of the rights of refugees and migrants as well as their role with the ERCI.