The Malta Independent 19 January 2020, Sunday

Updated: MV Lifeline captain conviction overturned on appeal

Tuesday, 7 January 2020, 09:48 Last update: about 12 days ago

MV Lifeline captain Claus Peter Reisch is a free man, after the Court of Criminal Appeal overturned his conviction for ship registration irregularities.

In May last year, Captain Claus Peter Reisch had been found guilty of not having his ship’s registration in order and was fined €10,000, with the court refusing the prosecution’s request to confiscate the vessel.

Reisch had been in charge of the vessel when it rescued 234 stranded migrants at sea in 2018. The rescue had caused an international dispute, with the Lifeline eventually being allowed to dock in Valletta, after which the rescued migrants were distributed amongst a number of EU countries.

Reisch had been charged with entering Maltese territorial waters without the necessary registration or licence.

Reisch’s lawyers,  Cedric Mifsud and Neil Falzon had appealed the fine on a number of grounds, arguing that the ship had been correctly registered under the Dutch flag and its ownership was indicated in that register.

In a judgment handed down this morning, Madame Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera overturned the sentence, saying the man had lacked the specific intent necessary to find guilt on the charge.

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The ship, however, was impounded, and Mission Lifeline spokesman Axel Steier said that now that the case is over, the aid group can get it back.

“We are very relieved and happy. Now we know that we did everything right,” Steier said in a statement.

For his part, Reisch tweeted: “Wow, incredible... I won.”

Mission Lifeline has acquired a new vessel that is being outfitted in Germany and plans to resume its rescues in the spring, Steier said. He said the group can no longer use the original ship because no country will offer its flag under “acceptable conditions.”

Steier told The Associated Press the verdict sends a message that rescuing migrants is “not a criminal thing, it’s a duty.”

 

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