A Cork man who appeared in court in Greece on charges linked to his work rescuing refugees at sea has been left in “legal limbo”.
Seán Binder, 27, along with 23 other volunteers, is facing charges connected to helping refugees in Lesbos in his role as a rescue diver and trained maritime search and rescuer.
Judicial officials said the misdemeanour court on Lesbos declared itself not competent to try the case and adjourned it pending the scheduling of a new trial that would involve more senior judges.
The defendants, including Séan Binder, who spent several months in pre-trial detention, face a range of charges including misdemeanour counts of espionage-related offences, illegal access to state communications, and assisting criminal activity.
The group denied any wrongdoing, maintaining that they simply wanted to help save lives when the island of Lesbos was overwhelmed by refugee and migrant arrivals from nearby Turkey.
“I’m frustrated that the prosecution’s procedural errors will drag this case on even longer,” Seán said.
All the while we’re left in limbo and rescuers are kept from the shore.
Seán’s barrister in London, Gráinne Mellon from Garden Court Chambers, said the move to a higher court is “what always needed to happen”.
“This should’ve been sorted out beforehand,” she told the Irish Examiner. Seán was charged in 2018, and it’s been endlessly going on and each time we’re given a new reason to delay.
It’s a real shame that it wasn’t sorted sooner. He is still facing charges and we’ve no idea when it’ll next be in court. If there was an end in sight, it would be manageable, but here we are facing another delay.”
The charges need to be reviewed or removed, or they need to charge him properly if they want a trial — he’s been left in legal limbo.
Speaking after the trial, Seán said he was “very angry”.
“Because we have to wait years more. We’ve been waiting for years. We spent three-and-a-half months in pre-trial [detention] and now we have to wait again.”
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other rights groups say the charges should be dropped.
“The charges perversely misrepresent the group’s search-and-rescue operations as a smuggling crime ring,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement ahead of the trial.
Giorgos Kosmopoulos, an observer from Amnesty International at Thursday’s hearing, said he