Sea-Watch captain moved to secret location

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The German captain of a rescue charity ship who angered Italy’s interior minister bringing African migrants to an Italian island received threats and has been moved to a secret location, the charity she works for said.

An Italian judge ordered Carola Rackete (31) released from house arrest where she had been held since Saturday, when she disobeyed Italian military orders and entered Lampedusa port.

Rackete faced up to 10 years in prison on possible charges of endangering the lives of four policemen for hitting a patrol boat at the quay as she brought around 40 African migrants to land in the Sea-Watch vessel.

“There were some general threats against Carola,” a spokesman for Sea-Watch, a German charity, said. “That’s why we moved her to a secret place. We will not comment on further travel plans,” he added.

In a statement released by the charity, Rackete called the decision by Judge Alessandra Vella “a great victory of solidarity toward all migrants against criminalisation of those who want to help them.”

Vella ruled the captain had not broken the law by crashing through a naval blockade, saying bringing rescued migrants to port she was carrying out her duty to protect life.

Far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said he was “disgusted” by the ruling. His League party last month introduced rules effectively closing Italy’s ports to rescue ships, threatening transgressors with fines of up to 50,000 euros ($56,500) and impounding their vessels.

The controversy over Rackete’s actions dented relations between Italy on one side and Germany and France on the other and highlights Europe’s continued failure to adopt a coherent strategy on immigration.

Rackete appeared before a court in Agrigento on Monday and apologised for hitting the patrol boat. She said it was an accident and her sole concern was the well-being of the migrants at sea for more than two weeks.

The captain has become a heroine to human rights campaigners.

An online campaign to help her launched by two German TV stars has to date raised close to a million euros, while a separate fundraiser on Facebook by collected 435,000 euros in seven days.

“I am moved by the solidarity of so many people,” Rackete said in her statement.

Sea-Watch said the money would fund future rescue missions.