Humanitarian worker Seán Binder and over 20 of his co-accused were the centre of a international press conference to MEPs and journalists in the European Parliament today as he prepares for trial in Lesbos, Greece next month. The 28 year old – who grew up in Castlegregory, Co. Kerry and now lives in London – faces up to 25 years imprisonment on charges related to his voluntary work on the island in 2018.
The activist was present in Strasbourg with co-accused humanitarian Pieter Wittenberg and their lawyer Zac Kesses. They are among a group of 24 who will face trial in January on the Greek island, accused of charges including people smuggling, money laundering, espionage and membership in a criminal organisation. The group refutes these charges, with NGOs including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch claiming that the trial is intended to intimidate aid workers, with the charges themselves being “politically motivated”.
At the conference, Binder shared how he had already spent over 3 months in pre-trial detention in Greece, “Our trial has gone on so long now that the prosecution is essentially a form of persecution” he shared.
Binder further shared his own views on his work in the Mediterranean, saying; “Imagine you arrive at the scene of a car accident and there’s someone lying on the road – they clearly need your help. What would you check first – their pulse or their passport? If, like me, you check their pulse first, you have committed the exact same crime that I supposedly am guilty of”.
Binder was invited to the Parliament by MEP for Ireland South Grace O’Sullivan, who has been supporting Seán and a wider campaign about the non-criminalisation of humanitarian work and will travel to Levos in January for the trial. Prior to the briefing, a demonstration led by O’Sullivan in support of the defendants was broken up by French police outside the Parliament.
“My first job was as a lifeguard, and I’ve spent much of my life dedicated to the oceans and saving lives on the sea. For me, these humanitarians are the lifeguards of the Mediterranean – and to even trial them may have a devastating impact on the future saving of lives. There’s a potential real long-lasting impact here – and that’s outside of the lives of people like Seán who cannot get on with their lives, due to the length of this trial” O’Sullivan stated.
The trial had previously been postponed from November 2021, and is due to take place on January 10th 2022.