SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A 73-year-old man from Drenthe is facing 10 to 25 years in jail after Greek authorities accused him of being involved in human trafficking.
Pieter Wittenberg told RTV Drenthe he was involved in volunteer work on the island of Lesbos following the destruction of the Moria camp in September 2020. He was also captain of a lifeboat and kept guard on a beach where refugees were sleeping.
He and 21 others are accused of spying, money laundering, membership of a criminal organisation and working with traffickers to smuggle people into the country. The case against them is due to be heard on November 18.
Wittenberg, from Peest, said he was the victim of a ‘bizarre European and Greek game’ and ‘outright intimidation of refugee organisations and volunteers’. He and his wife founded the organisation Stichting Shower Power in 2017 to operate showers for refugees living on the beaches of Lesbos.
‘We were just doing volunteer work, sheltering people on the beach,’ he said. ‘People who were cold, frightened and had soiled their clothing. People who’d had a difficult crossing in a rubber boat.
We gave them dry clothes, biscuits and water.’ Wittenberg said he wanted to attend the hearing in Greece later this month. ‘I want the chance to look the judges in the eye. It is a human being’s duty to help people in need.’