35-year-old Pia Klemp could face up to 20 years in prison after she rescued more than 1,000 migrants.
The German boat captain faces trial in Italy for allegedly cooperating with smugglers to traffic migrants to the country.
Her supporters from Bonn hail Klemp as a humanitarian who has been responsible for numerous rescue missions.
However, Italian authorities allege that Klemp worked with smugglers to pick up migrants at Mediterranean rendezvous areas and just pretended that it was a rescue mission.
Photos taken by undercover officers show human traffickers ‘escorting’ boats filled with asylum seekers as they are moved to aid boats.
But Klemp, who has been under investigation since her vessel was seized in 2017, has insisted that any incriminating photos were not taken in Libya but in Malta.
Under the influence of minister Matteo Salvini, Italy has also banned the German boat captain from sailing around their coasts.
Klemp said to Swiss newspaper Basler Zeitung that she could face up to 20 years in jail and hefty fines. However, she claimed she was ready to fight her prosecution if needed.
In addition, she has the backing of over 80,000 people who have signed a petition urging the country to drop the charges.
Klemp also told the paper that the worst thing about what happened is that the money she has to use in her defense could’ve been used on many rescue missions.
“But the worst has already come to pass,” she expressed. “Sea rescue missions have been criminalized.”
Italy’s deputy Prime Minister, Salvini, has turned rescue ships away operated by foreign NGOs and refused entry to Mediterranean migrants.
He has declared that migrants would only see the country ‘through a telescope’ or ‘on a postcard.’
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