Democracy & Justice

Tunisian Fishermen Released Because "Libya is not a Safe Haven"

Six Tunisian fishermen that towed a migrant boat to Italy and were arrested for people smuggling have been released by an Italian court.

by Roberta Martucci Schiavi
Abandoned ship used by migrants in Lampedusa

No evidence to suggest fishermen orchestrated trip

The men were arrested on August 30th in Lampedusa, but it was agreed that they could have taken the migrants back to Libya "because it is not a safe haven". For this reason the judges on the Review Court of Palermo set the men free. "There is no evidence to suggest that the fishermen played a role in the organisation of the trip; the circumstance that they started fishing only to ward off suspicions seems unlikely in the state.”

Prosecutor’s theory rejected

According to the hypothesis of the Agrigento Prosecutor's office and Judge, the fishermen had deliberately towed a boat with fourteen migrants to Lampedusa without notifying the authorities. "Six fishermen who have rescued a vessel in distress have been mistaken for human traffickers", said lawyers Leonardo Marino, Giacomo La Russa and Roberto Majorini.

One of the judges added that "It is unlikely that they started fishing just to get the migrants to Italy, and they could not take them back to Libya because it was not a safe haven”. In other words, the judges emphasised that the choice of towing migrants to Lampedusa did not indicate a desire to bring them into Italy illegally, because "although the migrants were in the Libyan Search and Rescue Area, they could not be transported to Libya, which can certainly not be called a safe haven”.

In response to the observation of the prosecutor's office, according to which the boat was in good condition and there had been no failure, the judges underlined that "At present, this is a superficial observation. It must also be considered that the boat in difficulty was overloaded". Ultimately, according to the Review Court, there are two different versions of the facts and "the evidence exists, but it is not serious".

Fishermen make statements after their release

Chamseddine Bourassine, who was defended by Salvatore Cusumano, and the other fishermen, in support of whom associations have mobilized in Italy, France and their home country, are known in Tunisia for having saved dozens of migrants off the coast of North Africa. "This is the first time we've had problems like this. We have saved so many lives, we have done so in so many other circumstances. To save lives we have done so much training," said Chamseddine Bourassine after being released.

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