Migrant rescue ship captain faces court
The German captain of a charity rescue ship, arrested for defying an Italian ban on docking with migrants, arrived in a Sicilian port yesterday for her first court appearance.
Supporters applauded as Carola Rackete (31) alighted at Agrigento on a police vessel from the Italian island of Lampedusa where she landed at the weekend with 41 Africans rescued from seas off Libya.
Ms Rackete, a volunteer for German charity Sea-Watch, has become a symbol of divisions in Italy over the government's policy of closing ports to non-government rescue ships.
The interior minister calls her a pirate and people-smuggler, while left-wing politicians hail her as an anti-populist heroine.
Ms Rackete had been in international waters for more than two weeks, waiting for an invitation from Italy or another EU state to accept her ship.
"We need support to end the death of people at sea and it's outrageous that civilians ... filling a gap left by the authorities are criminalised for saving lives," said Giorgia Lunardi, a spokeswoman for the charity.
Germany called yesterday for her release, but Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel at an EU meeting that it was an independent judicial matter.
The Italian government accuses Ms Rackete of endangering the lives of four policemen aboard a patrol, of resisting a warship order and of aiding people smugglers.