Rescue captain’s lawyer: she’ll answer questions in court

Saul Bowman
July 2, 2019

Carola Rackete, who could face prison, said her decision to enter Italian waters was "not an act of violence, only of disobedience".

Before dawn Saturday, Rackete plowed ahead, determined not to let the police motorboat stand in her path.

The captain rammed an Italian border police motorboat while docking the Sea-Watch ship, in defiance of Italy's anti-migrant interior minister.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has called her a pirate, an outlaw and a people-smuggler while left-wing politicians have hailed her as an anti-populist heroine.

The Italian authorities accused Rackete of aiding and abetting illegal immigration, violating the law of the sea and resisting state authority because she had allegedly resisted instructions from military ships.

Rackete was placed under house arrest and is to appear before a state prosecutor within 48 hours, her lawyer Leonardo Marino told reporters, adding she was "tired and stressed".

No-one was injured but the motorboat's side was damaged.

The Dutch-flagged Sea-Watch 3, operated by German charity Sea-Watch, was at sea for more than two weeks with rescued Africans on board.

Humanitarian groups, as well as United Nations agencies dealing with migrants and asylum-seekers say those rescued at sea shouldn't be returned to Libya, where migrant traffickers are based, because the migrants risk torture, rape, forced labor and are kept in squalid, overcrowded detention centers with scant food.

The 40 migrants disembarked soon after the vessel docked, one kissing the ground, others hugging ship crew members before boarding a bus.

The Italian foreign ministry said that Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Portugal stepped up to take in the migrants. We need to get these people off this ship,"said Chris Grodotzki, spokesman for the humanitarian organization Sea Watch, which operates the rescue ship".

Rackete, a volunteer for German charity Sea-Watch, has become a symbol of divisions in Italy over the government's policy of closing ports to non-government (NGO) rescue ships.

Carola Rackete, the 31-year-old Sea-Watch 3 captain, was arrested after a two week standoff at sea.

However, 40 people remained on board when Sea-Watch 3 docked without permission in Lampedusa.

Rackete called the situation "incredibly tense" on Friday saying the migrants were finding the uncertainty "difficult. psychologically". "We are prepared to disembark them ourselves if the authorities continue to neglect their responsibility".

"Humanitarian reasons can not justify unacceptable acts of violence towards those wearing uniform at sea", Italian media quoted regional prosecutor Luigi Patronaggio as saying.

Any fine might be covered by a reported 100,000 euros supporters in Italy recently donated to help Sea-Watch.

Under Salvini, the country closed its ports to migrant rescue vessels in June 2018.

Commenting on the appeal for donations, government spokeswoman Fietz said it was "a valuable contribution by civil society" to stand behind the sea rescue workers.

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