Italian ruling expected inrow over German relief ship

16th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

16 July 2004 , ROME - A judge in Sicily was expected to rule Friday whether three members on a ship belonging to a German aid agency that rescued 37 shipwrecked African immigrants and brought them to Italy should remain in prison. Captain Stephan Schmidt, his Russian first officer and the organization's head, Elias Bierdel, were arrested on Monday shortly after docking the Cap Anamur freighter in Sicily's Porto Empedocle. The three are accused of aiding and abetting illegal immigration, a charge that carri

16 July 2004

ROME - A judge in Sicily was expected to rule Friday whether three members on a ship belonging to a German aid agency that rescued 37 shipwrecked African immigrants and brought them to Italy should remain in prison.

Captain Stephan Schmidt, his Russian first officer and the organization's head, Elias Bierdel, were arrested on Monday shortly after docking the Cap Anamur freighter in Sicily's Porto Empedocle.

The three are accused of aiding and abetting illegal immigration, a charge that carries a stiff penalty under an immigration law introduced by Italy's centre-right government two years ago.

Cap Anamur, a charity group that started by rescuing Vietnamese boat people 25 years ago, has been at the centre of an international dispute after bringing the immigrants to Italy.

The Africans, who were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea more than three weeks ago, said they wanted to apply for political asylum in Europe after fleeing the war-torn Sudanese region of Dafur. Italian police, however, insists they are from Ghana, Nigeria and Niger.

An Italian government commission was at work Friday to establish whether the immigrants would qualify for political asylum, a possibility that has already been ruled out by the German government.

Cap Anamur's handling of the affair has been criticized by German Interior Minister Otto Schily and by the organization's own founder, Rupert Neudeck.

"If I was asked what to do in that situation - a ship registered in Germany with the name Cap Anamur crossing the Mediterranean that could have rescued 37 people - I would have advised it to go right back to the city of registration," Neudeck said in remarks broadcast on German radio Deutsche Welle.

Neudeck said the ship should have transported the immigrants to Germany, not Italy.

DPA

Subject: German news

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