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In Malta, three African teenagers stand accused of terrorism. They were among a group of migrants who fled Libya on a rubber boat on the 26th of March 2019. At risk of drowning, 108 people were rescued by the crew of the cargo ship El Hiblu 1. Instructed by an aircraft of the European military operation Eunavfor Med, the crew sought to return the rescued to Libya, a war-torn country where migrants live in appalling conditions. The migrants protested their return and convinced the crew of El Hiblu 1 to steer north, to Malta. During the protest nobody was hurt and nothing was damaged. Three African teenagers were arrested and imprisoned for 8 months. Now before a Maltese court, the El Hiblu 3 face serious charges of terrorism and could, if convicted, spend many years in prison. On the 28th of March 2020, the campaign “Free El Hiblu 3” will be launched, several human rights organisations, rescue NGOs, international lawyers and local NGOs are involved in the solidarity campaign.


Free the El Hiblu 3

– dismiss the trial immediately!

Resisting illegal push-backs to Libya is not a crime. Appeal to stop the criminalisation of three young migrants in Malta. In late March 2019, a rubber boat with 108 people on board, was escaping Libya coast and trying to reach Europe. Co-ordinated by an airplane of the Eunavfor Med operation, the people in distress were found and rescued by the merchant vessel El Hiblu 1. During the rescue the captain of the El Hiblu 1 reassured the people that they would reach a port of safety in Europe. Following the order of European authorities, the crew tried to return them to Libya and to the inhumane conditions from which they had escaped. When the rescued passengers realised they were being returned to Libya, they began to protest. Collectively they were able to prevent being pushed-back. The crew re-directed the El Hiblu 1 and steered north towards Malta. Nobody was injured during this protest, nothing was damaged. When the Maltese military stormed the vessel in Maltese territorial waters, they expected “pirates” or “terrorists”. But they only met humans who were seeking help and protection with hope for a safe place. Three of the 108 rescued passengers – 15, 16, and 19 year-old teenagers – were arrested as the ring leaders of the protest and accused of several crimes, including terrorism. They were immediately detained, take to a high security unit, and then imprisoned in Malta for seven months. They were eventually released on bail in November 2019. Having been released on bail, the three have to register every day at the police station. They continue to face a severe prison sentence if they are found guilty of the charges. Clearly, the Maltese state is trying to make an example of the three, in order to deter others from similarly resisting push-backs to Libya. The three teenagers were acting as translators and mediators during the protest on board. Their imprisonment and prosecution constitutes a deep injustice. Instead of being prosecuted, the “El Hiblu Three” should be celebrated for their actions in preventing the return 108 precarious lives to Libya. As signing organisations and groups, we demand the immediate dismissal of the trial. We agree that protesting illegal push-backs to Libya is not a crime. We demand the end of all illegal returns to Libya and mass human rights violations resulting form Europe’s collaboration with the so-called Libyan coast guards. We will continue to work toward corridors of solidarity and the fair relocation of refugees and other migrants in welcoming cities all over Europe.


This project has been initiated by activists from Sea-Watch, Mediterranea – Saving Humans, WatchtheMed Alarm Phone and African Media Association Malta with great support from Electronic Music Malta.

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