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Saturday 19 October 2019

Irish aid worker home on bail after 100 days in Greek prison

Relief: Seán Binder and his mother Fanny reunited for Christmas at Dublin Airport
Relief: Seán Binder and his mother Fanny reunited for Christmas at Dublin Airport

Laura Lynott and Ralph Riegel

Trinity graduate Seán Binder, who spent more than 100 days in a Greek jail after volunteering with a refugee group in Lesbos, returned home to Ireland yesterday after being released on bail.

Mr Binder (24), from Togher, Co Cork, was embraced by his mother, Fanny, at Dublin Airport as he landed on Irish soil after months in a Greek prison.

He had been arrested with Syrian human rights worker Sarah Mardini (23).

The pair were alleged by the Greek authorities to have been involved in human trafficking, which they deny.

Mr Binder was released on €5,000 bail earlier this month and is awaiting a trial date in Greece.

He told the Irish Independent: "I'm not a hero but I'm not a criminal. I'm feeling relieved. It's amazing to be back home with my family.

"It's Christmas next week, so it's great to be back but this is not really over. We have been released on bail but the absurd allegations are ongoing. We are still waiting for a trial.

"What I did was good. How can it be a crime to pull people who are drowning out of the water? How can it be a crime to provide medical facilities in a refugee camp? How can that be criminal?

"When I got there, I thought, 'I can effect change. I am a rescue diver. I have rescue skills. 'As a first responder, I can help out.'

"But then you have the first boat landing on some remote cliff face on the edge of Europe and you are helping somebody overcome hypothermic shock."

Mr Binder was charged with human trafficking when he was on the Greek island of Lesbos, assisting refugees as part of his work with a group called Emergency Response Centre International.

He and three other volunteers have spent the last three months in a Greek jail after they were accused of helping illegal migrants enter the country. All four have been released on bail.

He is now looking forward to Christmas at home with his mother and extended family between Cork and Co Kerry and planning a Christmas Day swim and surf in Castlegregory, Co Kerry.

In the new year, he will start to focus on his defence.

Mr Binder admitted he felt better placed to do this at home in Ireland.

Ms Binder said that having her son back, even on bail, was the best possible Christmas gift - particularly given that she had endured the upsetting experience of seeing her son in handcuffs in a Greek jail.

Irish Independent

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