SPANISH firefighters arrested in Greece on human trafficking charges have been allowed to return to their homes in Sevilla after spending three long nights in a Greek prison cell, according to a report on January 18.
Working as volunteers on the “Lesbos Project,” for the NGO Proemaid, at around 3 a.m. on January 14 the three men were assisting in search and rescue operations around the island of Lesbos when they ran into problems with Greek authorities.
Accompanied by two Danish volunteers, Julio Latorre, Manuel Blanco and Jose Enrique Rodriguez, of Seville, had responded to an alert for a sinking boat carrying refugees and migrants, in the middle of the Aegean Sea.
The group used spotlights to search the area, but found no sign of the distressed vessel. Aid worker Mr Latorre said their search party had “navigated pretty far away from the shore” when Mr Blanco realized they were headed for Turkish waters.
The aid workers turned back for the island, but were quickly intercepted by port authority police who insisted on escorting them back to base but promised they were not in trouble.
Fingerprints and mug shots of the five aid workers were then taken, along with their personal details, but at no point were the group told they were under arrest.
According to Mr Latorre, the police officers “became aggressive” some hours later, throwing their suspects into a small, dirty cell with one shared toilet. “They treated us like terrorists,” he has since claimed.
After three nights the Spanish volunteers were released on €15,000 bail and received the news that they were to be charged with human trafficking.