Migrants disembark from the Mare Jonio ship at the dock in the Italian island of Lampedusa island, Italy, 10 May 2019. Finance police put the Mare Jonio under sequester on Friday after the NGO-run search-and-rescue ship picked up 30 migrants in the Mediterranean, interior ministry sources said | Photo:  ANSA/Elio Desiderio
Migrants disembark from the Mare Jonio ship at the dock in the Italian island of Lampedusa island, Italy, 10 May 2019. Finance police put the Mare Jonio under sequester on Friday after the NGO-run search-and-rescue ship picked up 30 migrants in the Mediterranean, interior ministry sources said | Photo: ANSA/Elio Desiderio

Prosecutors in Agrigento have rejected the preventive seizure of the NGO-run search-and-rescue ship Mare Jonio but have ordered to keep the vessel in custody in order to investigate evidence in a case in which the ship's captain is accused of allegedly aiding and abetting illegal immigration.

Agrigento State attorneys have not approved the preventive seizure of NGO-run search-and-rescue ship Mare Jonio. The ship was put under sequester by tax police on Friday after it picked up a group of migrants in the Mediterranean. The prosecutors, however, ordered that the ship remain in custody in order for investigators to collect further evidence in the case, the attorney of the "Mediterranea" NGO operating the ship, Fabio Lanfranca, has confirmed. 


Investigators to examine evidence in the case 

The decision indicated that magistrates did not consider that there was enough serious evidence to preventively seize the boat but wanted to look for evidence that could be used on trial by the prosecution and defense to determine whether the ship's captain committed the crime of allegedly aiding and abetting illegal immigration by rescuing migrants in international waters. Finance police seized the boat accusing the NGO of failing to contact Libyan authorities before rescue operations. The Mediterranea NGO said the charge was "nonsensical" given that "we are talking about a country at war where bombs are falling and there are no institutional interlocutors."

Mediterranea calls decision 'important' 

The decision of Agrigento prosecutors not to uphold the preventive seizure of the vessel and to issue a new measure to examine evidence in the case is "important" because finance police officials were acting under the interior ministry's "input and were using the 'preventive' (measure) to stop the Mare Jonio", the Mediterranea Saving Human said. The NGO said the prosecutors' decision was aimed at "ascertaining facts and thus verifying through an investigation whether a crime was committed or not." 

"We are ready, as always, to provide any useful element to determine the truth", the organization said. The NGO said that it has "always respected the law and rights, as well as human dignity, contrary to those filling institutional positions who are accomplices of deaths at sea or of the capture and deportation of women, men and children to the lagers of a country at war like Libya."
 

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