Protest over arrest of Cork aid worker in Greece

Fanny Binder, mother of Sean Binder, pictured in Cork city. Pic: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Supporters of a Cork aid volunteer, held in a Greek jail over allegations of helping illegal migrants enter Greece, are to hold demonstrations in five cities next Saturday to call for his release.

Sean Binder, a Trinity College graduate, who volunteered with Emergency Response Centre International, helping refugees on Lesbos island, went to meet police voluntarily in August, after learning that he was being sought for questioning about the charity’s activities. He denies any wrongdoing.

He was immediately taken into custody and faces up to 18 months in pre-trial detention. His mother, Fanny Binder, who is originally from Germany, but moved to Kerry with Sean when he was five and later to Togher, Cork, has spent most of her time since in Lesbos.

For weeks, Sean, 24, was held in a police station there, before being moved to prison on Chios island. Conditions are better there, but it is harder for Fanny to see him.

“I just know everything will be OK, in the end, but the end could be 18 months away,” she said. “Sean is doing everything to keep in good spirits. He is teaching English and German. But he has good days and bad.”

The pre-trial investigation centres on claims that the charity helped illegal migrants get into Greece — effectively trafficking people — and that it laundered money.

Two of Sean’s colleagues have been similarly detained, including Sarah Mardini, a 23-year-old Syrian refugee, who, along with her Olympian sister, saved the lives of 18 people after their vessel sank in 2015.

“Sarah hates the people traffickers so much, and Sean is so careful to do everything right, because humanitarian work is what he wants to make his career. This is why this is so crazy,” said Fanny.

A demonstration will take place at the Greek Embassy in Dublin, at 1pm this coming Saturday, while Sean’s college friends and supporters are staging protests in Boston, Berlin, Stockholm, and Lesbos.


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