Free El Hiblu 3 campaign’s hopes now lie with the court’s ‘reasonableness’.

The Free El Hiblu 3 campaign hopes that it will be the “reasonableness of the court” that will make up for the authorities’ seeming inability to drop the “outrageous” charges against the three youths accused of terrorism.

In a statement issued on the day of the pre-trial Criminal Court hearings against El Hiblu 3, the campaign signatories question Malta’s jurisdiction over the alleged criminal acts attributed to Abdalla, Amara, and Kader.

The case revolves around a non-violent protest by rescued migrants off the Libyan coast, preventing their illegal return to Libya and redirecting the vessel towards Europe. In November 2023, the three youths were charged with terrorist activities, hijacking a ship, threatening a crew and several other serious offences. At least four out of a total of nine charges carry life sentences.

On 26 March 2019, the El Hiblu 3 and around 100 others were rescued from a rubber boat in distress. They were 15, 16 and 19 years old at that time. The boat had departed from Libya, heading for Europe.

Co-ordinated by an aeroplane of the European Union’s EUNAVFOR Med operation, the people in distress were rescued by the commercial tanker El Hiblu 1 and reassured by the vessel’s crew that they would be brought to a port of safety in Europe.

Yet, following European authorities’ orders, the crew tried to return them to Libya, the place they had just escaped.

When the rescued passengers realised they were being returned to Libya, they protested the attempted push-back. Amara, Abdalla, and Kader’s translation and mediation between the frightened crew members and the equally terrified rescuees prevented an escalation of the situation.

Subsequently, the ship re-directed its course and steered north towards Malta. Upon arrival, Abdalla, Amara and Kader were arrested and accused of an assortment of serious crimes, including acts of terrorism.

The three teenagers were immediately detained in a high-security wing in Malta’s adult prison before being transferred to age-appropriate youth correctional facilities.

The three were imprisoned for almost eight months before being released on bail in November 2019. Since then, numerous Maltese and international organisations, activists, academics, including reputable legal scholars and public figures, joined forces in campaigning for the trial to be dismissed.

Advocates argue that El Hiblu 3’s actions should be commended for preventing the forceful return of individuals to unsafe conditions in Libya rather than facing imprisonment and prosecution.

The defence and prosecution are expected to present their pleas today in court, where Judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera will preside over the case.

Signatories supporting the El Hiblu 3 include African Media Association Malta, Blue Door Education, Border Violence Monitoring Network, borderline-europe – human rights without borders e.V., Captain Support Network, Center of Legal Aid – Voice in Bulgaria, CPT – Aegean Migrant Solidarity, Dance Beyond Borders, Demokratischen Jurist*innen Schweiz, Iuventa-crew, JRS Malta, Legal Centre Lesvos, Migrants Commission, Archdiocese of Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Open Assembly Against Border Violence Lesvos, ResQShip, Refugees in Libya, Sea-Watch e.V., The People for Change Foundation.

                           

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