Aid workers face trial in Greece for spying after refugee rescues

Papers accuse aid workers of paying to obtain Greek work permits for people fleeing the conflict in Syria

Aid workers face trial in Greece for spying after refugee rescues

Two British workers, their colleague and seven other aid workers are facing trial in Greece over alleged espionage offences after allegedly paying people smugglers to rescue refugees and immigrants off the coast of Turkey.

The criminal complaint, filed by the Greek authorities in January, says the aid workers paid the smugglers to help more than 100 refugees and asylum seekers reach Greece between December 2015 and June 2016.

The British couple, one Italian and five German nationals have all worked in Greece for a number of years. They were arrested last year and have denied any wrongdoing.

Their lawyer has said he has seen police documents that reference a wide-ranging international conspiracy.

The court in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, said it had placed a number of aid workers under house arrest in case they had gone abroad.

The names of the accused have not been released by Greek authorities and there has been no response to requests for comment from either the British embassy in Athens or charity Ocean’s Sole, which was part of the group.

The aid workers’ lawyer declined to comment on the case.

Prosecutors have reportedly alleged in their charging document that some aid workers paid several thousand euros each, after being given what they believed to be information about Greek authorities cracking down on those involved in the smuggling routes.

Those named in the charging document have “gone abroad to take part in ‘piracy’ against Greece,” it was quoted as saying.

Their neighbour, Tomas Szlapak, told the BBC that the couple, who were married, had asked for a house-arrest order because they feared they might be tortured if released on bail.

Separately, six aid workers in Germany are also facing possible charges after they were detained last year following allegations that they shared confidential information with aid groups working in Libya. They have also denied any wrongdoing.

In 2016, three German aid workers were expelled from Malta after Greek authorities said they had been conducting illegal surveillance of people smuggling groups operating in the island nation’s exclusive economic zone.

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