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Greece: 5 aid workers cleared on migrant smuggling charges

May 7, 2018

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Five members of international aid groups from Spain and Denmark have been cleared in court on charges of attempting to illegally bring migrants into Greece.

The three Spanish firefighters and two Danish men were arrested in January 2016 on the eastern Aegean Sea island of Lesbos, and their trial was held on Monday.

A presiding judge dismissed the charges against Spaniards Jose Enrique Rodriguez, Manuel Blanco, and Julio Latorre of the group Proem Aid, as well as those against Danish volunteers Mohammed Abbassi and Salam Aldeen from the Copenhagen, Denmark-based charity organization Team Humanity.

Lesbos for years has been at the heart of Greece’s immigration crisis. It is the main point of arrival for refugees and migrants crossing from the nearby Turkish coast in flimsy boats provided by smuggling rings.

International humanitarian groups have a strong presence on the island, which has seen another surge in daily arrivals of migrants and refugees in recent weeks.

All five men on trial had all denied wrongdoing, arguing that they were on the island to help migrants who were facing dangers at sea.

The three Spanish defendants, who work in the southern Spanish city of Seville, appeared in court in their uniforms.

Rosa Aguilar, minister of justice and the interior from Spain’s Andalusia regional government, traveled to Lesbos to attend the trial.

“They’ve been through a nightmare for the past two years,” she said in a statement. “Now they can enjoy this moment with their families, who have suffered with them, and they can continue being the people they are, people who show other solidarity.”

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