By Sana Elouazi
Rabat – Podemos, the Spanish opposition party, has asked King Felipe VI of Spain to intervene in the case of Spanish activist Helena Maleno. Maleno, 47, has been based in Tangiers for more than 15 years but she appeared in a court on Wednesday accused of facilitating illegal immigration.
“We want to make a request to the King of Spain, who, as we know, gets along with the Moroccan authorities, to intervene so that Helena returns to her daily work as an activist,” said Noelia Vera, deputy of Unidos Podemos, cited by the Spanish daily Eldiario.
“We think it’s an outrage, and we show our love to Helena Maleno, a human rights activist who has been denouncing human rights violations in the Mediterranean for many years,” Vera added.
Spanish police began an investigation into Maleno’s activities in 2012, but the case against her was filed by the Office of the Public Prosecutor of the Spanish Court last April, as they found no evidence of any criminal offense.
According to Maleno, Spanish police passed their investigation on to the Moroccan authorities without specifying that it had been classified in Spain. The hearing came to court on Wednesday because of an initial report by Spanish police suspecting Maleno of working for a “criminal organization due to her telling rescue workers where migrants were, which aided their transfer to Spanish coasts.”
“Trying to save the lives of people crossing the Mediterranean is not a crime,” Maleno said.
Many human rights organizations and personalities expressed their support for Maleno. A petition against the case has been launched and signed by more than 200 leading Spanish figures.
“We show our total solidarity with and support for Helena Maleno,” the petition reads, for “the defense of the right to life” and against “the criminalization” of her work.
By receiving calls from people crossing the Mediterranean or from their relatives, Maleno, who works now for the NGO Caminando Fronteras, was able to pass on their locations to the Spanish coastguard in order to accomplish their rescue operations.
According to Miguel Jesus Zea, head coastguard for the southern Spanish area of Almeria, Maleno has helped rescue “at least 10,000 people” off the coast of Almeria.
“I find it incredible that a person who saved so many lives, who gives so much, be probed,” Zea said.