Greek court drops charges against migrant aid workers including Sarah Mardini

Greek court drops charges against migrant aid workers including Sarah Mardini
2 min read
14 January, 2023
A court on the Greek island of Lesbos has dropped charges against two dozen aid workers - including Sarah Mardini, the sister of Olympic swimmer Yusra - who were accused of smuggling in migrants.
The UN and several rights group pressured Greece to drop the charges [Getty]

A Greek court rejected charges against several aid workers on Friday – including Sarah Mardini, the sister of Syrian Olympian Yusra Mardini - who helped migrants arriving on the country’s shores after making the perilous journey across the Aegean Sea.

The charges dropped against the 24 aid volunteers included espionage, according to a report by the Washington Post (WP).

Sarah and Yusra Mardini was featured in the recent Netflix hit "The Swimmers," which spoke about their escape from war-torn Syria.

The court made its decision "largely on procedural grounds," arguing that documents hadn’t been translated properly. It said prosecutors had the chance to refile complaints, according to the WP report.

The defendants – who were facing up to eight years in prison if found guilty - are unlikely to be charged again.

"Today’s outcome undermines the legal basis" for future charges, defence lawyer Evita Papakyriakidou was quoted as saying by WP.

The UN human rights office on Friday had called for charges against the humanitarian workers to be dropped, saying the case had had a chilling effect on humanitarian organisations in the region.

"Trials like this are deeply concerning because they criminalise lifesaving work and set a dangerous precedent," Elizabeth Throssell, a spokesperson for the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights told reporters at a briefing in Geneva.

The aid workers, some of them foreigners, were affiliated with the Emergency Response Centre International, a non-profit search-and-rescue group operating on Lesbos from 2016 to 2018. The island was then on the frontline of Europe's refugee crisis, with scores of asylum-seekers arriving daily on its shores.

The trial began on the Greek island of Lesbos in November 2021. It was immediately adjourned as the case was referred to a different court.

Tens of thousands of migrants make the dangerous boat voyage to Europe from North African and Middle East shores every year, escaping war, persecution and poverty.

Greece has been accused by rights groups of pushing back migrants and endangering their lives, which Athens denies.

Agencies contributed to this report.