'farcical' | 

Kerry man arrested for humanitarian work with migrants faces up to 25 years in Greek jail

Seán Binder was arrested in 2018 while volunteering for a charity. He spent more than 100 days locked up in a Greek prison

Aylan Shenu lies on the shores in Bodrum, southern Turkey, on September 2, 2015© DOGAN NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty

Sinead Kelleher and Ali BrackenKerryman

Castlegregory native Sean Binder is to face trial next week, January 10, more than four years after he was first arrested.

He faces a number of charges, including people smuggling, being a member of a criminal organisation and spying.

Not all charges are to be dealt with on January 10, but the alleged offence of spying will come before the courts.

Seán, who attended Gaelcholaiste Chiarraí, is one of 24 people charged in connection with their humanitarian work. He denies all charges but could face up to 25 years in jail.

Mr Binder said he, like many people around the world, was moved by the images of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, whose body washed up on a Turkish beach while he and his family were trying to reach Greece, and in 2017 he travelled to Lesbos to work with a charity.

Aylan Shenu lies on the shores in Bodrum, southern Turkey, on September 2, 2015© DOGAN NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty

He was arrested in Lesbos in 2018 while volunteering for NGO Emergency Response Center International. He spent more than 100 days locked up in a Greek prison before being released on bail in December 2018 following a campaign by his family, friends and human-rights organisations

The charges have been condemned as “farcical” by Amnesty International and criticised by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and many others.

A previous trial in 2021 was adjourned.

More than 60 MEPs have previously written an open letter in support of Mr Binder and his co-defendants. Grace O’Sullivan, the Green Party MEP for Ireland South, said the charges should be dropped.

Mr Binder and his solicitor in Strasbourg met with Ms O’Sullivan to raise awareness of the trial and his innocence.

Speaking in Strasbourg, Mr Binder said “’search and rescue’ is not illegal, it is a legal obligation we have.”

MEP Grace O’Sullivan said that she and other Irish MEPs are trying to get Greek MEPs and others to put pressure on the Greek authorities to drop the charges.

She said that more should be done by the Irish Government to help Mr Binder.

“I think more should be done by Irish Government. He is a German national but grew up in Ireland,” she said.

Mr Binder has also said he was relieved a new trial date has been set following a series of delays and false starts over the past four years. The charges have made it difficult for him and other aid workers to continue with their lives.

Mr Binder said he hopes the trial in January will be the “beginning of the end” of the legal saga. “I’m delighted. I really want to go to trial. The delay has been so painful for all of us,” he said. “The question is, when will this all be over? The felony part of this – the more serious charges of people smuggling and being a member of a criminal organisation – we still await these.”


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