Ital­ian judge re­leases Span­ish NGO’s mi­grant res­cue ship

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - International -

AN ITAL­IAN judge or­dered yes­ter­day the re­lease of a Span­ish non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion’s (NGO) mi­grant res­cue boat, which was im­pounded by pros­e­cu­tors last month. The le­gal case is part of a wider po­lit­i­cal and le­gal clash be­tween hu­man­i­tar­ian NGOs and Ital­ian au­thor­i­ties who wish to reg­u­late and re­strict the flow of mi­grants into the coun­try.

The de­ci­sion by Ra­gusa pre-trial judge Gio­vanni Gi­ampic­colo was re­ported by Ital­ian news agency ANSA and con­firmed by a spokes­woman for the Span­ish char­ity, Proac­tiva Open Arms.

“It is only a first step, and good news,” the char­ity’s founder Os­car Camps tweeted. He said that his or­ga­ni­za­tion re­mained under crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“We won a bat­tle but I think that the le­gal war does not end to­day, it will con­tinue and it will be long,” Alessan­dro Gam­berini, a lawyer for Proac­tiva Open Arms, was quoted as say­ing by ANSA.

Gam­berini is de­fend­ing Open Arms mis­sion chief Ana Is­abel Montes Mier, one of the two mem­bers of the Span­ish NGO who are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for abet­ting il­le­gal mi­gra­tion.

As part of the same in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the Open Arms ves­sel was im­pounded on March 18, a day af­ter it docked in Poz­za­llo, Si­cily, with 216 res­cued mi­grants it re­fused to hand over to the Libyan coast­guard.

Cata­nia Pros­e­cu­tor Carmelo Zuc­caro started a le­gal case against Proac­tiva be­cause the NGO dodged Libyan or­ders and then took the mi­grants to Italy, rather than to the closer port of Malta.

The Span­ish NGO in­sists it can­not al­low peo­ple to be re­turned to Libya, where they risk tor­ture and abuse. It also said the Libyans threat­ened to shoot at its per­son­nel.

Zuc­caro’s of­fice ini­tially an­nounced in­ves­ti­ga­tions against three Proac­tiva of­fi­cials, but man­aged to iden­tify only two. Three weeks ago, it was stripped of re­spon­si­bil­ity over the af­fair.

On March 27, an­other pre-trial judge dropped the more se­ri­ous crime of crim­i­nal as­so­ci­a­tion against the two re­main­ing Proac­tiva sus­pects, and moved the case from Cata­nia to Ra­gusa, an­other Si­cil­ian town.

Ger­man mi­grant res­cue NGO Ju­gend Ret­tet is fac­ing a sim­i­lar le­gal or­deal. Its ship was im­pounded in Au­gust by other Si­cil­ian pros­e­cu­tors who sus­pected the group of abet­ting il­le­gal mi­gra­tion. The char­ity is fight­ing to have the boat back, and Italy’s top ap­peals body, the Court of Cas­sa­tion, is due to rule on the case on April 23. “These are two dif­fer­ent cases but [the de­ci­sion of the Ra­gusa judge] makes us hope­ful,” Ju­gend Ret­tet spokesman Philipp Kuelker told dpa, stress­ing that no mem­ber of the NGO has so far been charged.

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