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UPDATED: MV Lifeline crew told court hearing was cancelled, too late

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Captain Claus Peter Reisch. Photo: Axel Steier / Mission Lifeline

Crew members of the MV Lifeline turned up in court prepared to sit in for the scheduled compilation of evidence against the ship’s captain, only to be told it was cancelled 20 minutes before it was due to start.

The volunteers were surprised to hear that today’s hearing against Captain Claus-Peter Reisch was not going to take place – especially after they had earlier confirmed with the court’s customer care section that it was still scheduled for 11am.

They turned up with interpreters since Magistrate Mifsud refused a request to hold the hearings in English. Media reports said the lawyer who requested the hearing in English was not part of the defence team, which is why his request was dismissed.

Instead, Magistrate Joe Mifsud this morning held a previously scheduled visit to the MV Lifeline, accompanied by court experts and lawyers.

The boat, berthed at Boiler Wharf, Senglea, and its computers were examined by the experts.

Access to the ship was only granted to court officials.

Reisch is facing charges related to the migrant rescue vessel’s registration. He has been granted bail against a personal guarantee of €10,000 and ordered to deposit his passport in court.

The ship was impounded by the Maltese authorities after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat ordered an investigation into the vessel’s registration.

Carrying 234 migrants, the ship spent six days stranded at sea before being granted permission to berth in Malta. The migrants will be relocated among nine countries – including Malta.

Magistrate Mifsud is also expected to decide on Wednesday on whether Reisch will be allowed to leave the island to visit his mother for a few days.

NGOs have saved thousands of lives in the Mediterranean between 2015 and 2018 – in 2016 they were the most important single search and rescue actor, accounting for 26% of all rescues, filling a huge gap in State search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean after Italy scaled back its Mare Nostrum operation in late 2014.

Individuals and NGOs offering humanitarian assistance to migrants through rescue operations should not be punished for their actions, the European Parliament said last week.

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