Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 8 December 2019

Germany calls on Italy to release detained migrant rescuer

Carola Rackete tried to allow migrants to disembark on Italian soil without permission

Carola Rackete was arrested after a two-week standoff at sea and faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted. AFP
Carola Rackete was arrested after a two-week standoff at sea and faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted. AFP

Rome and Berlin have clashed over the fate of a Germany migrant rescue boat captain who entered an Italian port without permission with 40 people rescued from the Mediterranean on-board.

Carola Rackete was arrested after hitting a police speedboat on Saturday after two-weeks at sea when entering the port in Lampedusa. The 31 year old, accused of putting the speedboat and the safety of its occupants at risk, appeared in an Italian court on Monday and faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted. A decision on her case was postponed until Tuesday.

“In our view the end of due judicial process can only result in the release of Carola Rackete. I will again make this clear to Italy,” said German foreign minister Heiko Maas.

He said at the weekend that someone who saves lives “cannot be criminal”.

The comment drew the ire of Italy’s hardline, anti-migrant interior and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, who said Mr Mass should “invite his fellow citizens not to break Italian laws”.

Mr Salvini, who had called the incident an “act of war,” said on Monday he had not changed his mind about “the German criminal”.

German leader Angela Merkel met Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday, where he said he could not intervene with judicial affairs.

"My client will answer all the judge's questions," Leonardo Marino, one of Miss Rackete's lawyers, said on arrival at the court.

"Miss Rackete acted out of necessity and had no intention of using violence", he told journalists.

Miss Rackete’s boat, Sea-Watch 3, picked up 53 migrants drifting on an inflatable raft off the coast of Libya on June 12.

The Italian authorities allowed 13 migrants to be taken in for health reasons but refused entry to the 40 others. All have now been allowed to disembark at Lampedusa

The case has sparked two fund-raising appeals for Miss Rackete's legal costs, which have collectively raised almost $1.36 million.

“We are proud of our captain, she did exactly the right thing. She followed the law of the sea and brought people to safety,” Sea-Watch chairman Johannes Bayer said.

Updated: July 2, 2019 12:44 PM

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