Long delayed trial of migrant rescuers resumes in Greece

A trial in Greece of 24 humanitarian workers accused of espionage, including Syrian swimmer Sarah Mardini who inspired a Netflix film, resumed Tuesday after more than a year.

The trial began in November 2021 but was swiftly adjourned. The suspects are also being probed for human trafficking, money laundering, fraud and the unlawful use of radio frequencies.

Mardini, who has lived in exile in Germany since 2015, was arrested in 2018 while volunteering for a Lesbos-based search and rescue organisation, where they assisted people in distress at sea.

"I was arrested because I was handing over water and blankets and translating for the refugees arriving every night on the shoreline," she had said in a TED interview.

Rights monitors slammed the slow proceedings and said the case was politically motivated.

Wies de Graeve from Amnesty International, who is an observer at the trial, said the delay was a ploy to prevent NGOs involved in rescue operations from working in Greece.

Pieter Wittenberg, a Dutch accused, said the charges of spying and money laundering would not hold up, adding that the case was politically motivated.

Mardini was not present in court as the Greek authorities did not permit her to return, her lawyer Zacharias Kesses said.

Mardini fled Syria in 2015 during the civil war with her sister, Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini.

She spent more than three months in jail in Lesbos following her arrest and was released after her attorneys raised 5,000 euros ($5,370) in bond.

The case was initially set to go ahead in 2021 but was postponed over procedural issues.

The Mardini sisters are the main characters of The Swimmers, a Netflix film based on their story.

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