The three young men have said that in hindsight, they have felt regret over coming to Europe | Photo: Jelka Kretzschmar/Free Elhiblu3 Campaign
The three young men have said that in hindsight, they have felt regret over coming to Europe | Photo: Jelka Kretzschmar/Free Elhiblu3 Campaign

The Pro Asyl charity in Germany has called for the dismissal of the trial against three young migrants accused of terrorism in Malta. The migrants from Guinea and Ivory Coast were rescued in the Central Mediterranean in 2019 by a freighter, which brought them to Malta.

Pro Asyl says that three young migrants in Malta continue to face life imprisonment charges because they resisted the prospect of being returned to Libya alongside more than 100 refugees.

The organization stressed that the case against the three youths, known as the "El Hiblu 3" after the ship they were rescued by, El Hiblu, has been ongoing for three and a half years now. Two of them were minors at the time.

The most recent trial day on Thursday has thus far failed to yield any new findings either, Pro Asyl added.

"Prosecutor Victoria Buttigieg would have the opportunity to end the shameful proceedings or at least drop the terrorism charges," Karl Kopp, head of Pro Asyl's Europe department, told the EPD news agency.

Read more: Calls to release three young asylum seekers in Malta grow, as EU countries face criticism for jailing migrants

Mediators made out to be terrorists

On March 26, 2019, the freighter 'El Hiblu 1' had rescued 108 migrants on an inflatable boat in distress at sea in the Central Mediterranean.

However, protests reportedly broke out on the ship when the refugees realized that the freighter, allegedly following orders of European authorities, was setting its course for Libya to return the migrants there.

The three youths, aged 15, 16 and 19 at the time, tried to defuse the situation and mediated between the crew and the other migrants on board. Eventually, the ship took them to Malta. This is the reason why, says Pro Asyl, they now face terrorism charges, based on allegations saying that they effectively commandeered the freighter.

Under Maltese law, this would qualify as terrorist activity, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison. 

The three youth, two of whom hail from Guinea and one from the Ivory Coast, were initially detained for seven months. They have reportedly been free on bail since November 2020. However, they are required to report constantly to police authorities, where they are interrogated in regular intervals.

Libya: living hell for migrants

"It is grotesque that people seeking protection face draconian prison sentences in European courts for demanding the right to asylum and not allowing themselves to be sent back to Libya's torture camps without resistance," Kopp added. "Resisting illegal deportation to Libya is not a crime." 

Reports of severe abuse in Libyan detention centers keep surfacing, with the UN saying in a report published last year that there are instances of "murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment (and) rape" against migrants there.

The document said that these and other such abuses may actually amount to crimes against humanity.

Read more: Three years and counting: Amnesty calls on Maltese to drop charges against migrants


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