Published by iuventa-crew | 12 / Feb / 2024

Prosecution case relies on compromised witnesses – iuventa trial crumbles!

Last Saturday at the court of Trapani, one of the last preliminary hearings in the trial against iuventa took place. In the courtroom, the witnesses on which the prosecution bases its hypothesis of the crime of 'aiding and abetting illegal immigration' against the defendant were heard.

We have translated and published in Italian the statement by iuventa-crew.

Press release

The main prosecution witnesses were summoned for questioning in yesterdays’s hearing, marking a significant moment after nearly two years of preliminary proceedings. This session shed light on the ulterior motives and serious credibility issues of these witnesses upon whom the prosecution has built its entire case. The defendants are therefore hopeful that Saturday’s hearing marks the beginning of the end to the trial, as they have conclusively demonstrated that the accusations made by the witnesses were fabricated and politically motivated.

The existence of “reliable and trustworthy eyewitnesses” was considered the unique and defining element of the Iuventa case and the big difference to the dozens of other cases against SAR NGOs, all of which never reached trial or were immediately dropped. The fact that these eyewitnesses were former police officers who acted out of a purported sense of duty, was supposed to add legitimacy to the case. However, yesterday’s hearing shed a very different light on the matter.

The two key witnesses were actually dismissed from the police service due to a history marred by lies, fraud, defamation, and malpractice. Their credibility was so compromised that they became untenable even within the police ranks [For more information on the prosecution’s key witnesses, see our PRESS KIT]. Despite extensive evidence of their dishonesty and past questionable behaviour, the prosecution used them as the pretext for constructing the largest and most extensive investigation against SAR NGOs. Through selective omission of facts, they were transformed from disgraced former employees into purportedly credible “ex-colleagues.”

Trapani’s prosecution was fully aware of their tainted past from the outset. Police tapped their phones in order to verify their statements. These records clearly showed in the early stages of the investigation their dishonesty and ulterior motives, with the one harboring aspirations of rejoining the police service, while the other aimed for a prestigious position within Italy’s far right and racist Lega Nord party. The fact that they contacted Matteo Salvini, exchanged information and material with him, reveals the political inclinations and motives behind their accusations and testimonies.

But not only is the credibility of the witnesses null and void; even their so called “eyewitness-reports” are vague, contradictory, and the result of either a fundamental lack of knowledge about the standards of maritime behaviour and Search and Rescue operations, or bad faith.

Nicola Canestrini, iuventa lawyer:The cross-examination of prosecution witnesses, finally ordered by the court to verify their credibility, confirmed the absolute lack of evidence for the charges. Immediate termination of the proceedings, which began 8 years ago, is the only acceptable option in a rule of law.”

Kathrin Schmidt, iuventa defendant: “It’s ridiculous to see how the Italian juridical system has made itself a puppet show over political interests of dodgy right wing characters. The only possible fair outcome is for the judge to drop all charges in his decision at the end of this preliminary phase, which is expected early March.”

This situation may seem like material for a soap opera, but the reality is far more grave. According to the International Organization for Migration over 10,000 individuals have lost their lives in the central Mediterranean since the IUVENTA was seized in the summer of 2017. Additionally, more than 200,000 people have been forcibly returned to Libya. Each of these tragedies could have been prevented, and the IUVENTA could have played a crucial role in saving lives – if only it had not been seized.

28.02. – 02.03. Closing statements of all parties expected. 

Trapani, 11th February 2024

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