The Public Prosecution Service on the Greek island of Lesbos is appealing in the case against rescue worker Pieter Wittenberg from Peest. This is reported by the organization Human Power, which assisted Wittenberg on Lesvos.
Wittenberg was charged with espionage and human smuggling, along with 23 others. “If the Greek Supreme Court allows the cassation, it is expected that the case will not be heard for another three to five months,” Human Power reports.
In January, 75-year-old Wittenberg stood before a Greek court. Justice suspected him and 23 other rescuers of espionage and people smuggling because of the help they provided to refugees on Greek islands in 2016 and 2017. Wittenberg and the others helped boat people ashore.
According to the court, the charge of espionage was not founded due to procedural errors, and some other violations also disappeared from the table.
The court made no substantive ruling on crimes such as membership of a criminal organization and human smuggling. So that suspicion remained. “The police investigation into the crimes has now been concluded and is being assessed by the Chief Public Prosecutor,” Human Power reports. “Nothing is known about the progress there.”
The public prosecutor has now appealed the court’s decision in January and is asking the Supreme Court to review the verdict. The Supreme Court will check whether all procedures have been followed correctly. If the Supreme Court rules that the judge has made mistakes, the case will have to be heard again by another judge. The violations are then back on the table. Wittenberg therefore remains suspected of the crimes anyway.
Pieter Wittenberg thinks that the actions of the Greek Public Prosecution Service are part of a larger plan. “They want to keep the allegations in the air as long as possible and delay a final verdict,” he says. “If the verdict is not there, fellow aid workers will no longer dare to go to the beach to help refugees. Journalists are also terrified to go to the beach.”
Crimes such as human smuggling do not become statute-barred until 2038. Wittenberg therefore fears that it is still a long way off. “Until then, they could continue the business,” he says. “It’s about buying time. That’s not only Greece’s tactic, but Europe’s as well. Refugees are being made more and more difficult to enter Europe.”