Drop Possible Felony Charges Against Human Rights Defenders

Target: Konstantinos Tsiaras, Minister of Justice of Greece

Goal: Free human rights defenders imprisoned in Greece.

Human rights defenders, Sarah Mardini and Sean Binder, were arrested in 2018 by the Greek authorities.  They were engaged in search and rescue operations for refugees near the Lesbos Island as a part of the volunteer group Emergency Response Center International (ERCI). A total of 24 defendants were tried at a Greek court earlier this month, reckoned by the European Parliament as the “largest case of criminalization of solidarity in Europe.” The trial, held on January 10, cleared the duo of misdemeanor charges, but they still face felony charges. Mardini and Binder were accused on four counts of misdemeanors: disclosure of state secrets, espionage, forgery, and unlawful use of radio frequency. They also face possible felony charges on three counts: fraud, money laundering, and facilitation of illegal entry.

The Director of Amnesty International’s European Regional Office, Nils Muiznieks, asked the authorities to acquit them of all charges. The United Nations rights office spokeswoman Liz Throssell, also called upon the Greek judicial system to free the defendants. Commenting on the acquittal from misdemeanor charges, defense lawyer Cleo Papapantoleon was of the view that this was the ‘first recognition’ of the ‘legal mistakes’ in conflict with the ‘essence of a fair trial.’ The counsel expressed hope that the precedent will be observed in the investigation of possible felonies, of which there is ‘no evidence.’

Sarah Mardini and her sister Yusra Mardini are the heroines of the Netflix film, The Swimmers. The asylum seekers from Syria traveled to Greece from Turkey by boat when its engine failed. The sisters swam to the shore and helped keep the dinghy afloat, saving the lives of the people onboard.

Stand by the human rights defenders by adding your signature to the petition below. Demand the Greek authorities to do the right thing and retract all possible felony counts.


Dear Minister Tsiaras,

Two prominent human rights defenders, Sarah Mardini and Sean Binder, along with 22 others, have been stuck in a lengthy legal battle in Greek courts since 2018. The activists were arrested near the Island of Lesbos when they took part in a search and rescue operation assisting refugees stranded at the sea. They were charged with four counts of misdemeanor and three possible counts of felony.

The case has received widespread international attention, with the United Nations, Amnesty International, and the European Parliament decrying the faulty legal premises. The European Parliament called the case the ‘largest case of criminalization of solidarity in Europe.’ The UN and Amnesty International have demanded that all charges should be dropped.

The high-profile case finally went to trial on January 10, after five years. The court has cleared the activists of misdemeanor charges on procedural grounds. We ask you, Minister Tsiaras, to serve as a voice of justice and free the defendants of all charges. By doing this, you can not only set a strong precedent of law, but also be a missive of hope in the European refugee crisis.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung

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301 Signatures

  • Jelica Roland
  • Mary and Roger Stephens
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