Malta court overturns rescue ship captain's conviction

A Maltese appeals court has overturned a conviction of a German captain of a private ship that rescues migrants in the Mediterranean Sea

VALLETTA, Malta -- A Maltese appeals court on Tuesday overturned the conviction of a German captain of a private ship that rescues migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, declaring there was no criminal intent when he entered Maltese waters without proper registration.

Claus Peter Reisch had been found guilty in May of not having his ship registration in order and with entering Maltese waters without a permit. The Court of Criminal Appeal ruled that Reisch didn't have the specific intent to break the law. The court overturned the original judgment and revoked the 10,000 euro fine.

Eventually the vessel was allowed to dock in Malta and the migrants were distributed among EU states.

The ship, however, was impounded, and Mission Lifeline spokesman Axel Steier said that now that the case is over, the aid group can get it back.

“We are very relieved and happy. Now we know that we did everything right,” Steier said in a statement.

For his part, Reisch tweeted: “Wow, incredible... I won.”

Steier told The Associated Press the verdict sends a message that rescuing migrants is “not a criminal thing, it’s a duty.”