President of NGO Baobab risks 'up to 18 years' in jail

'I don't know why', he says

25 April, 09:00

    (ANSAmed) - ROME, 25 APR - The president of Rome-based migrant aid association "Baobab Experience", Andrea Costa, told a press conference on Thursday (April 21) that he risks a sentence of 18 years in jail on charges of favoring illegal immigration. A court of first instance in Rome is scheduled to rule on the case on May 3. "I risk a conviction from six and a half to 18 years in prison and I still don't understand the charge", the president of Baobab Experience, Andrea Costa, told a press conference on Thursday, April 21. "I am accused of favoring illegal immigration for helping nine young migrants buy bus tickets to travel from Rome to Genoa", said the president of Baobab Experience. The Rome-based association has been offering aid to migrants in transit in the Italian capital since 2005.

    Costa is on trial, together with another activist, for collecting money and paying for the trip from Rome to Genoa - on October 4, 2016 - of eight Sudanese and a Chadian migrant. A volunteer is also facing charges for accompanying the nine migrants to Genoa and then to a Red Cross camp in the Liguria border city of Ventimiglia. A court of first instance in Rome is scheduled to rule on the case on May 3.

    'No evidence' to support case, attorney The attorney representing the organization, Francesco Romeo, told the press conference organized by Baobab in Rome that the case against the organization's members was originally based on the suspicion of anti-mafia investigators that the migrants were trafficked for financial gain. "No evidence" backed this investigative hypothesis, said the lawyer. Tapped phone conversations "between October and December 2016 showed no trace" of evidence supporting charges of criminal organization or trafficking for a profit, he noted. "On the contrary, controls on Costa's bank accounts in that period showed a bank overdraft of 15 euros", stressed the lawyer. "The hypothesis of investigators was therefore dropped but, like nothing of the pig gets wasted", charges connected to "activities to aid the nine migrants were recuperated" by investigators to build the legal case that led to the trial.

    "All organizations offering aid to migrants, starting with NGOs carrying out rescue operations at sea, are number-one enemies of traffickers", stressed Costa. "We have just returned from the border between Ukraine and Moldova, bringing with us Ukrainian mothers and children. We crossed five borders, receiving the smile of authorities, which clashes with this trial for favoring" illegal immigration, he noted.

    (Andrea Costa, president of Baobab Experience, the Roman association that has been offering aid to migrants in transit since 2005, during a press conference at the foreign press association on April 21, 2022. Photo: ANSA/ LAURA GIANNONI).


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