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Malta: German migrant rescue ship captain wins appeal

January 7, 2020

The German captain of a Mediterranean migrant rescue ship has had a conviction overturned by a Maltese court. Claus-Peter Reisch helped over 200 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.

Captain Claus-Peter Reisch
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Filous

A Maltese appeals court on Tuesday overturned the conviction of the German captain of a ship that rescued migrants.

Claus-Peter Reisch was found guilty in May of not having the correct ship registration to enter Maltese waters when he transported migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Court of Criminal Appeal ruled that the captain did not have the specific intent to break the law, and overturned the original judgment as well as revoking the €10,000 ($11,200) fine.

Read more: Sea-Watch rescuers slam 'shameful' German, EU refugee policy

"We are pleased that the long wait is over," said Axel Steier, spokesman of the sea rescue NGO Mission Lifeline. 

"Wow, unbelievable," Reisch tweeted. "I won." 

The Mission Lifeline vessel, Eleonore, had been carrying 234 migrants in June 2018, under Reisch's control. The rescue was controversial but the boat was eventually allowed to dock in Malta and the migrants were distributed among EU states.

The Mediterranean Sea is a popular entry point for migrants from North Africa and the Middle East, but many die en route owing to overcrowding on boats. Several private and publicly funded organizations operate rescue missions in the region.

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ed/rt (dpa, epd)