After 8 years, prosecution calls for charges to be dropped in IUVENTA proceedings

28.02.2024

Trapani, 28.02.2024 - In a surprising turn of events, the prosecution in the proceedings against the four crew members of the Iuventa crew and others has requested the charges to be dropped. Today's hearing marked the commencement of the final statements, where the prosecution unexpectedly acknowledged the lack of arguments to support the charges against the crew after 7 years of ongoing proceedings. The judge’s decision is still pending.

The first of the four final hearings in the preliminary hearing of the four crew members of the Iuventa crew and others began today with the prosecution presenting their final arguments. To the defendants’ surprise, they called for the termination of the proceedings and the release of the Iuventa ship. The Ministry of Interior, participating in the trial as a civil plaintiff, stated that they will leave the decision to the court.

In their arguments, the prosecution admitted that the main witnesses lack credibility and that there is no basis for any wrongdoing on the defendants' side. They noted that the preliminary hearing provided more evidence and information than they had previously, prompting their change in stance.

While relieved by the prosecution's shift, the defendants expressed shock at what they perceive as either incompetence or ill intentions on the part of the prosecution, highlighted during today's hearing. Crucial evidence, such as doubts concerning the credibility of the prosecution witnesses, should have been addressed during the investigation phase, not during pre-trial proceedings. The defense emphasized the importance of conducting a thorough investigation before pressing charges.

Francesca Cancellaro, one of the Iuventa lawyers, criticized the prosecution's approach: "We are pleased with the prosecution's change of mind after 7 years. However, this is not how a state of law operates. Charges should only be pressed after a thorough investigation and collection of all available evidence. Initiating a trial without proper groundwork is unjust and places undue burden on the defendants."

The defense highlighted that they had even submitted a motion in 2019, urging for the investigation to be closed, providing all the evidence and material that the prosecution is now basing their decision on, years later. However, it appears that the prosecution did not even review the evidence, opting instead to open a trial despite the lack of substantial grounds.

Nicola Canestrini, one of the Iuventa lawyers: “Today, the government, who had actually claimed damages against the rescuers left the decision to the court and left the courtroom.”

Dariush Beigui, Iuventa defendant: "It's relieving and sad at the same time. If the public prosecutor's office had looked at the evidence from the start, they would never have been allowed to seize the iuventa and we would have been spared 7 years of stress. One eye cries, the other laughs."

Sascha Girke, iuventa defandant: “The Iuventa should never have been confiscated, and people should not have been left to die. Now, the court in Trapani has the opportunity to halt the toxic impact of this criminalization of solidarity—a situation that should never have been allowed to unfold. We call on the court to do so."

Kathrin Schmidt, iuventa defendant: “Today was an important step towards the de-criminalization of sea-rescue. However let’s be clear that unlike the Iuventa trial, the struggle for freedom of movement is not even remotely coming to an end. People on the move continue facing systematic repression and mass incarceration. Nobody is free until everyone is free!”

Allison West, ECCHR: "Even if the charges are dropped, the long legal process against the Iuventa crew has had real negative impacts: In addition to removing one more desperately needed rescue boat from the Mediterranean, the criminalization of the Iuventa crew has served to intimidate and deter sea rescue and solidarity with people on the move. The law should protect and promote such vital work, not be used to impede it."

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