SICILY, Italy: An Italian court has ordered the release of the German captain of a rescue ship who had been placed under house arrest after docking her ship at Lampedusa port.
Carola Rackete, 31, the captain of Sea-Watch 3, was detained in Italy after refusing to stand down in the face of military orders. Italy had banned the Sea-Watch ship from entering its waters.
Italian judge Alessandra Vella on Tuesday ruled that Sea-Watch captain Carola Rackete had not acted against the law when she refused to comply with a ban on entering Italy’s territorial waters.
We are relieved our captain is free! ❤️🚀 There were no grounds to keep her arrested, as here only 'wrongdoing' was to enforce human rights on the Mediterranean and to take responsibility where none of the European governments did. #FreeCarola #FreeCarolaRackete #CarolaRackete
— Sea-Watch International (@seawatch_intl) July 2, 2019
Italian prosecutors requested the judge uphold a house arrest order in place since she was detained over the weekend. But the judge overturned the order, saying Rackete was “doing her duty saving human lives.”
The German captain was taken into custody on Saturday as about 40 migrants who had remained on the ship disembarked. They had been aboard the Sea Watch 3, operated by the rescue NGO based in Germany, since June 12 after the rubber boat in which they attempted the sea crossing became distressed some 47 nautical miles off Zawiya, Libya.
While attempting to dock her ship, she rammed into a police boat that was trying to block her manoeuvres.
Rackete paid tribute to the crew of the Sea-Watch 3 and described the ruling as “a big win against the criminalisation of helpers in many countries across Europe”.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who leads the far-right League Party, has threatened to use force to prevent vessels rescuing refugees off the coast of Libya from entering Italy. He believed these rescue ships were involved in human trafficking. However, Sicily-based prosecutor Luigi Patronaggio on Tuesday told Italian lawmakers that investigators have yet to find evidence that rescue vessels, such as the Sea-Watch 3, were implicated in a trafficking scheme to funnel refugees to Europe.
“She will go back to Germany where authorities would not have been that tolerant if an Italian captain had made an attempt on the lives of German police officers,” the interior minister said.
Rackete’s arrest prompted two online campaigns, which between them raised more than €1m. A fundraising appeal by two prominent German television stars raised Over $1.034 million (917,195 euros) from more than 33,000 donors by Tuesday morning, while a second campaign, started on Facebook, had raised around $500,000 (433,993 euros) by Tuesday.