The association Baobab Experience, which assists migrants in Rome, has said that its president, Andrea Costa, is on trial on charges of aiding and abetting illegal immigration.
The president of migrants' rights association Baobab Experience, Andrea Costa, is on trial on charges of aiding and abetting illegal immigration, the Roman volunteer group announced for the first time on Monday (April 18).
A court of first instance is scheduled to issue a sentence on the case on May 3, the group said.
Baobab Experience has been providing support and legal assistance to migrants in transit since 2005.
Accusations date back to 2016
The facts at the center of the trial date back to 2016. In a wiretapped phone conversation, Costa spoke about nine young migrants who "wish to reach the Red Cross camp in Ventimiglia", a city in the northwestern Liguria region close to the border with France.
The nine youths -- including eight from Sudan and one from Chad -- had been evicted a day before the tapped conversation from a camp run by Baobab, which was sheltering about 300 people. The association said the volunteers had offered money to the nine youths "to buy bus and train tickets." Baobab Experience has organized a press conference on Thursday, April 21, to discuss the case.
'Costa is compared to traffickers'
This phone call, says the organization, resulted in Costa being compared by Italian prosecutors to migrant smugglers, who operate in Italy demanding hefty prices for tickets and fake documents, and "speculating on people's vulnerabilities and desire for a better life."
The organization added that "charges like this one weigh heavily as they pose an absurd paradox - those who fight human trafficking are accused of favoring that trafficking", the group noted.
Baobab also denounced the "emotional pressure that this criminal trial entails," pointing out that the current charges carry sentences which could range from between six and 18 years imprisonment. "When the dynamics of the entire judicial case are so distorted, being aware of one's innocence is not comforting", it concluded, adding that in their opinion, "rules are deliberately ambiguous."