‘I was handcuffed to a guy who had murdered two people’

Lesbos, Greece – If there’s one factor three months in a Greek jail cell didn’t take from Seán Binder, it’s his sense of humour.

He saved a plastic two-euro coin from his time in jail, which he produces with a coy smile.

“I can buy exactly two spinach pies the moment I go back to prison – and spinach pies are perhaps my favourite thing about Greece,” jokes the 27-year-old, who’s learning legislation in London.

Unlike different college students his age, Binder, a German citizen raised in Ireland, is going through prices in Greece of individuals smuggling, being a part of a felony organisation, espionage and cash laundering associated to his time working with refugees on the island of Lesbos, all of which might carry a jail sentence of as much as 25 years.

Binder was arrested in 2018 together with Sarah Mardini, 26, who arrived on Lesbos as a Syrian refugee in 2015 and returned to volunteer, in a case rights teams have decried as “baseless.”

The two spent greater than 100 days in pre-trial detention in Greece. “One hundred and six”, to be exact, stated Binder, sitting in a restaurant in a Lesbos harbour.

In the gap is a brand new refugee camp, constructed within the wake of the hearth that razed the notorious Moria camp to the bottom final 12 months.

The island’s geographical place as an exterior European border was why Binder, an authorized rescue diver, travelled to Lesbos.

“It seemed that as a German or Irish person, what happens at our borders, relates to me and it happens in my name. So I have some reason and responsibility for being involved in a response to the loss of life at sea,” he stated.

Trial adjourned

Last Thursday, Binder sat in a Lesbos courthouse because the long-awaited trial in opposition to him opened. It was later adjourned and will probably be moved to the next courtroom at a later date; the Lesbos courtroom determined it didn’t have jurisdiction as a result of one defendant is a Greek lawyer.

Reporters had been prohibited from getting into the courthouse. The motive given by officers was “COVID, referring to bodily distancing measures.

Three years have handed since Binder was final on the island.

After the adjournment, defendants and their households cried and embraced each other.

Binder stated the wait is “super expensive” and has had an affect on his emotional wellbeing {and professional} life, however he stays clear-eyed. According to him and plenty of observers, they’re being utilized by Greece for instance.

“It’s the chill factor itself,” he stated of the continued delays to the trial.“And the limbo dissuades others from participating in necessary and legally required search and rescue.”

Binder was arrested in August 2018 alongside Mardini, who on the time was leaving the island to renew her research in Berlin.

Mardini, a Syrian aggressive swimmer who was earlier hailed as a hero for saving refugees in peril at sea, is now banned from getting into Greece and lives in Germany, the place she has asylum.

“Sarah and I were handcuffed together at that moment and taken to the courthouse where these very heinous crimes were levelled against us,” stated Binder.

When he speaks about his time in jail within the jap Aegean, his voice lowers and his affable smile disappears.

“It’s horrible,” he stated.

“You’re supposedly innocent until proven guilty, but what that means in practice is that I was handcuffed to a guy who had murdered two people. I was in a cell with 17 convicted felons.”

Binder, Mardini and Nassos Karakitsos, 40, one other member of the ERCI (Emergency Response Center International) NGO the trio labored for, had been lastly launched in early December 2018.

“We were so lucky to have so much support from the public,” stated Binder and credit public outrage as a part of the rationale they had been launched.

‘No evidence of wrongdoing’

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) are among the many high-profile organisations calling for the fees to be dropped.

HRW says the 86-page police investigation file had “blatant factual errors”, together with claims that a few of the accused participated in rescue missions on a number of dates after they weren’t in Greece.

Greek authorities allege that the activists monitored Greek Coast Guard radio channels and used a Jeep with pretend navy plates – however the defendants’ attorneys have identified inconsistencies and inaccuracies.

The prices for espionage relate to the defendants speaking on an “encrypted messaging service”: the favored communication app, WhatsApp.

In spite of the doggedness of Greek authorities in pursuing the case, it’s clear that the defendants have giant pockets of help throughout Europe. Protests in solidarity occurred from Athens to Brussels final week and an open letter, signed by greater than 70 MEPs, was despatched to the European Commission.

“The only way that justice can be served is for the charges to be dropped,” stated Irish MEP Grace O’Sullivan who has been main the marketing campaign within the European Parliament.

Binder is indignant and particularly offended that Mardini continues to be barred from getting into Greece to attend her personal trial as a “threat to national security”.

“I face the verbatim charges. How am I not a threat to national security?” he questioned. “It’s because she is Syrian.”

Before he leaves the interview, he desires to stress a degree in regards to the criminalisation of humanitarians in Europe.

“I think that the most shocking thing about what our trial represents isn’t so much about me as an individual or us as a group but rather the risk to all of us, to anyone,” he stated.

“When you step back and realise there is no evidence of wrongdoing – the obvious implication is that it can happen to anybody who is doing the right thing.”