After spending more than 100 days behind bars, Trinity graduate Sean Binder, an aid worker who faces charges of human trafficking, was today released from prison in Greece on €5,000 bail.
Sara Mardini, another aid worker facing similar charges, as well as two other humanitarians, were also released on bail.
In a press statement, released after Binder and Mardini’s release, Kondylia Gougou, Amnesty International’s Greece Researcher, said: “Whilst we welcome the news that these dedicated humanitarians will be back with their families tonight after more than 100 days behind bars, the fact that they still face absurd charges and potentially long prison sentences is an outrage.”
“This case is just the latest example of how authorities are mis-using anti-smuggling laws to target activists and criminalize rescue. To detain dedicated volunteer humanitarians who helped people in need defies logic. People who selfless act in these ways should be lauded not imprisoned. These baseless charges should be dropped”, he said.
Binder, a former student of political science, economics, sociology and philosophy, was arrested in February on the island of Lesbos on charges of human trafficking, money laundering, espionage, and being a member of a criminal organisation. He handed himself in to Greek officials in late August, on foot of an arrest warrant, and was detained at the Chios Island prison.
Before the arrest, Binder worked for the Emergency Response International, a Greek non-profit organisation that provides humanitarian aid during times of crisis and aims to help refugees in Greece. Greek officials maintain that the organisation was involved in criminal activity.
A petition was launched by the Irish branch of the Anti-Racism Network calling for Binder’s immediate release, and for all charges against him and Mardini to be dropped. A statement released alongside the petition accused the Greek police of using the arrest of Binder and Martini as an attempt to deny vital services to refugees.
Trinity staff and students widely condemned Binder’s arrest. In an email statement to The University Times, Dr Andrew Finlay, an assistant professor in Trinity’s Department of Sociology and one of Binder’s former lecturers said: “I would be astonished if Sean has done anything illegal or untoward.” Finlay described Binder as “outstanding in a strong class, notable for his seriousness and honesty, intellectual and otherwise”. Finlay signed the petition calling for Binder’s release.
In an email statement to The University Times, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President Shane De Rís described Binder’s detainment as “angering”. He said: “We hope to see this case resolved with the release of those detained but it is also much more than this. An end must come to the persecution of refugees and of those who endeavour to assist those fleeing persecution.”
Born in Germany, Binder has lived in Ireland since the age of five. After graduating from Trinity, he studied for a masters in international relations theory in the London School of Economics. He has denied all charges. Since his arrest, Binder’s mother has travelled from her home in Togher to Lesbos.
Mardini volunteered with the same NGO as Binder. Bard College Berlin, the college where she studies, previously issued a statement in support of both Mardini and Binder.