The German captain of a charity rescue ship appeared before a court in Sicily on Monday after she was arrested for forcing her way into an Italian port carrying migrants she had rescued off the Libyan coast. Her ship was carrying 41 African migrants.
The initial hearing in the city of Agrigento was meant to decide whether Carola Rackete, 31, should remain under house arrest or be freed as the investigation continues into her contested rescue mission.
Judge Alessandra Vella is expected to make a decision by Tuesday morning, a judicial source said.
Rackete, a volunteer for German charity Sea-Watch, has become a symbol of divisions in Italy over the government’s policy of closing ports to non-government (NGO) rescue ships.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has called her a pirate, an outlaw and a people-smuggler. while left-wing politicians have hailed her as an anti-populist, humanitarian heroine.
Rackete’s boat was impounded and Sea-Watch could be fined up to 50,000 euros ($57,000).
A crowdfunding effort for Rackete´s release – backed by two of Germany’s top television celebrities – raised more than 800,000 so far.
She has denied any wrongdoing and her lawyer, Alessandro Gamberini, told reporters she had apologised to the judge for hitting a patrol boat, saying it was accidental.