A CORK man who was incarcerated in Greece on suspicion of human trafficking and espionage has been released on bail after an agonising 106 days in jail.
Seán Binder, from Doughcloyne in Togher, was incarcerated more than three months ago and it was feared he would spend up to 18 months in the Chios Island prison before going on trial. The 24-year old had travelled to Lesbos as a volunteer with Emergency Response Centre International — an NGO working with asylum seekers.
However, his life was turned upside down after he became part of an organisation accused of smuggling migrants into Greece, spying and money laundering.
Amnesty International said Mr Binder was a volunteer providing life-saving help for refugees. The organisation welcomed his released on bail along with three other NGOs.
“Whilst we welcome the news that these dedicated humanitarians will be back with their families after more than 100 days behind bars, the fact that they still face absurd charges and potentially long prison sentences is an outrage,” Amnesty said in a statement.
Seán’s mother, Fanny, said she is elated by his release and hopes her son can have a proper family Christmas.
Amnesty International said the case of Seán Binder and three other NGOs was another example of authorities misusing anti-smuggling laws.
“This case is just the latest example of how authorities are misusing anti-smuggling laws to target activists and criminalise rescue.
“To detain dedicated volunteer humanitarians who helped people in need defies logic. People who selflessly act in these ways should be lauded not imprisoned. These baseless charges should be dropped.”
Seán’s mum said the support of so many people in Ireland and internationally had helped secure his release on bail. “I’m convinced that without the support of everyone who spoke up for us, Seán would not be free today,” she said. “My heart is full of love. The last few weeks were among the hardest. Now we can’t wait to come home and be a normal family again.”
Fanny drew strength from her son’s courage throughout the ordeal.
“I had to keep my emotions stored away,” she said.
“This is something that I’ve learned over the last few months.
“Seán is an amazing young man and there wasn’t a day went by that he didn’t focus on how to improve his situation and move forward.
“When I visited him we tried not to talk about his situation. Even then, we still found moments where we laughed together.”
Fanny said she feared the worst but is delighted by his release.
“I tried not to think of these things because I didn’t want Seán to be disappointed. Nobody thought this would happen. It hasn’t even sunk in for me yet.”
She is most looking forward to sitting down for a meal with the family.
“Seán’s favourite dish is lasagne so I’m going to be making mountains of it,” she laughed.
The graduate of political science at Trinity College was arrested last February before being released.
He later handed himself in to authorities after an arrest warrant was issued for him.
Fanny said: “He wants to find a positive in all of this. Things have to change and policies need to be clearer. Innocent people can’t be put in prison.
“There are thousands of lives at stake here.”
She is still reeling from the experience.
“Seán is the most straight-laced person you could ever meet. It’s always been important to him to do things right and in a way that doesn’t cause hurt to others.”
Fanny spent the majority of her time since Seán’s incarceration in Lesbos where she was able to visit her son three times a week.
News of Seán’s incarceration sparked outrage in the community.
Supporters of the Cork aid volunteer staged demonstrations across the country calling for his release.