Andrea Costa, the head of the Baobab Experience organization, which provides assistance to migrants transiting through Rome, has been acquitted of charges of aiding and abetting clandestine immigration.
Legal proceedings brought against the head of the organisation Baobab Experience, Andrea Costa, have ended in an acquittal. His organization has been providing assistance since 2005 to migrants transiting through the Italian capital. Rome prosecutors had charged him and two other activists with aiding and abetting clandestine migration in relation to a 2016 incident. The crime carries a sentence of between 6 and 18 years in jail.
Acquittal almost 6 years after the incident
In the hearing on Tuesday (May 3) as part of a fast-track trial, prosecutor Gianfederica Dito asked the judge to drop the charges for all the defendants.The request was upheld by the judge after withdrawing into his office chamber for a few minutes.
The incident that led to the charges occurred on October 16, 2016. The reception center set up in Via Cupa in Rome's San Lorenzo quarter had a few days before - on September 30 - been cleared, while inside the facilities a few hundred migrants were found that were being transfered to a center for identification.
The activists from the organization offered support and aid to eight Sudanese nationals and one from Chad by buying 250 euros' worth of train and bus tickets used to cross the Italian border with France at Ventimiglia.
The investigation by the prosecutor's office centered on this act and had drawn the attention of the Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate (DDA), which cited the possible charges of aiding and abetting clandestine migration.
On leaving the court, Costa was welcomed with applause from about 100 people who took part in a solidarity sit-in outside.
Costa says he 'would do it all again'
"I am pleased because a judge has sanctioned what I already knew: that the offence did not take place. Now there is someone who has put down in black and white that solidarity is not a crime," Costa said, adding that "in these years it has been difficult knowing that I was under investigation despite being aware that I had done the right thing."
"I would do it all over again," added Costa, who was defended by the lawyer Francesco Romeo. "We will continue to help people who are in need, like what is happening for the refugees from Ukraine."