Greek police have arrested three members of a charity helping migrants on the eastern island of Lesbos. The three, including Germany-based Syrian, Sarah Mardini, are accused of belonging to a criminal organization, money laundering, espionage, forgery and breaches of immigration laws.
Police made the arrests on Lesbos and in Athens on August 21 and a week later, on August 28. They say Sarah Mardini, German national Sean Binder and a third man, Nassos Karakitsos, facilitated the illegal entry of migrants to Greece for profit, had advance notice of smugglers' routes and numbers of passengers, and illegally monitored Greek and European coastguard radio traffic.
In total, police say they suspect 30 people, all members of the Greek NGO Emergency Response Center International (ERCI), of involvement.
The Greek lawyer representing Mardini and Binder says his clients were doing volunteer work on Lesbos for ERCI, and denied the charges.
"There is no evidence whatsoever that they have committed even one of the offences they are accused of," Haris Petsikas told the Associated Press. "On many of the dates when they are supposed to have committed offences, they were not even (in Greece)," he said.
23-year-old Sarah Mardini and her sister Yusra, both competitive swimmers, arrived in Greece in 2015 from Syria. They were widely praised for saving the lives of fellow migrants when they both jumped off an inflatable boat that had begun taking on water, and helped to swim it to shore. Yusra went on to join the refugee team at the Rio Olympic Games. Sarah is studying on a scholarship at Bard-College in Berlin.
Lesbos is a major entry point for migrants crossing from Turkey. More than 10,000 migrants are currently stranded on the island.
Lawyer, Petsikas, said there was no proof that ERCI members were in contact with migrant traffickers.
On Wednesday, he appealed for Mardini's immediate release from Korydallos prison in Athens.