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Migrant rescue ship captain heads to Italian court hearing

More than €1million has been raised to help the captain of a rescue ship who stands accused of ramming a police boat to dock a group of 40 migrants on an Italian island.

As of Monday morning, more than €735,000 had been garnered through a television campaign in Carola Rackete’s native Germany, and a further €410,000 by a Facebook page in Italy.

Rackete, 31, is currently being taken in an Italian border police motorboat to a court hearing on whether she stays under house arrest.

Italian state radio said she was being escorted Monday from the tiny island of Lampedusa to a port in Sicily, where she will be transferred to a courtroom in the town of Agrigento.

A judge will question her in the presence of her lawyers and prosecutors. 

On Saturday, Rackete’s defied Italy’s anti-migrant interior minister, Matteo Salvini, and port authorities, by steering Sea-Watch 3 to Lampedusa’s dock so 40 migrants, which the ship rescued on June 12, could disembark.

Prosecutors allege she deliberately rammed a border police boat blocking her path. Rackete’s lawyers say she didn’t intend to harm anyone.

Two weeks earlier, Ms Rackete and her crew rescued 40 migrants and had requested permission to drop them off on the tiny Italian-owned island. 

But the country’s anti-migrant interior minister Matteo Salvini refused to let them disembark on Lampedusa until other European Union countries agreed to take in the asylum-seekers.

Five countries offered on Friday home the migrants but still the Italian government did not give permission for the the Dutch-flagged Sea-Watch 3 to disembark. 

At dawn on Saturday, Ms Rackete, fed up, steamed towards the shore and in doing so smacked into the much smaller border force motorboat. 

The joyful migrants hugged the crew and kissed the dock upon arrival, after 17 days at sea. 

Ms Rackete was immediately taken into custody and Mr Salvini condemned her action’s as ‘incredible’. 

He told RAI state radio: ‘I have asked for the arrest of an outlaw who put at risk the lives of the border police on the motorboat.’

He added that he also asked authorities to sequester the ship, ‘which goes around the Mediterranean breaking laws’.

Sea-Watch defended the captain’s actions, as did Italian opposition politicians who had gone aboard a few days earlier in a show of solidarity to the migrants.

In a statement the company said: ‘She enforced the rights of the rescued people to be disembarked to a place of safety.’ 

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