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Judge to announce decision on refugee rescuers' preliminary trial in April

FOUR activists who saved the lives of over 14,000 people in the central Mediterranean will find out if they are to stand trial over human smuggling charges on April 19.

The accused — Kathrin Schmidt, Dariush Beigui, Sascha Girke and Uli Troder — were members of the Iuventa refugee rescue ship between 2016 and 2017.

The ship was seized in August 2017 after the Italian secret services bugged the bridge and intercepted the crew’s emails and phones.

The police initially warned 10 members of the crew that they were under investigation. But in March 2021, they charged the four above with “aiding and abetting illegal immigration.”

The final four days of the preliminary hearings into the charges, which only began in Trapani, Sicily, in 2022, came to an end on Saturday.

Despite the prosecution requesting on Wednesday that the judge drop the charges against the Iuventa four, the judge said on Saturday that he will announce his decision on whether to drop the charges or proceed to trial on April 19.

Francesca Cancellaro, one of the Iuventa four’s lawyers, described the prosecution’s request to drop the charges as a political victory.

“But of course this is not a legal victory. We are still waiting for the judge’s decision,” she said at a debriefing with the activists and their supporters on Friday night in Trapani, which the Star attended.

“We don’t have to be scared of the importance of this trial. It has been a great opportunity to propose a counter-argument against the criminalisation of solidarity movements and people on the move.”

Nicola Canestrini, one of the four’s other lawyers, said that authorities have much to answer for regarding their actions over the past eight years.

“I hope that they can sleep well,” he said, a reference to the 10,000 refugees known to have died in the central Mediterranean since the Iuventa was seized.

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