Italy's high court refuses to release migrant rescue ship

Italy's high court refuses to release migrant rescue ship
FILE -- In this photo taken on Aug. 2, 2017, the Iuventa ship of the German NGO Jugend Rettet is docked at Lampedusa' harbor, Italy. Italy’s highest court has rejected a request by Jugend Rettet to release its migrant rescue boat Iuventa, seized eight months ago by prosecutors investigating allegations that NGOs colluded with migrant smugglers. (Elio Desiderio/ANSA via AP)

ROME (AP) — Italy’s highest court has rejected a request by a German group to release its migrant rescue boat seized eight months ago by prosecutors investigating allegations that non-governmental organizations colluded with migrant smugglers.

The German group, Jugend Rettet, said Tuesday that it was devastated by the Cassation Court’s ruling and that “we will fight for the right to rescue people in danger at sea.”

Doctors Without Borders said the ruling “sends a working signal (that) Europe will continue to criminalize humanitarian organizations conducting search-and-rescue operations … rather than strengthening capacities to save lives at sea.”

Prosecutors told the court that the Iuventa was seized based on three episodes in which crew members had contact with migrant smugglers. The group’s spokesman, Philipp Kulker, said in Berlin that the evidence had been fabricated.