By PANAGIOTIS BALASKAS and DEREK GATOPOULOS Associated Press
LESBOS, Greece (AP) — A 75-year-old Norwegian photographer, arrested on the Greek island of Lesbos, appeared in court Friday on espionage-related charges that his lawyer and supporters describe as unfounded.
Knut Bry, who works with a local nonprofit organization that helps migrants and refugees, was arrested Wednesday on the island’s main port of Mytilene while taking photos of the harbor.
“We are aware of the arrest of a Norwegian citizen on Lesbos. The Embassy will offer assistance according to the consular framework,” the Norwegian embassy said in a statement to The Associated Press.
His lawyer, Haris Petsikos, said Bry would formally present his defense on Monday.
“Of course he does not accept these allegations under any circumstances,” Petsikos said. “We don’t see anything from the case file that is incriminating against him.” Located near the coast of Turkey, Lesbos was the busiest point of entry into the European Union during the 2015-16 refugee crisis, when hundreds of thousands of people fled wars in Iraq and Syria.
Greece’s center-right government has taken a tough line on migration, intercepting boats carrying migrants from Turkey, and limiting the role played by charities in helping migrants. Taking photographs of military areas can lead to prosecution for illegally obtaining state secrets and punished by imprisonment of at least one year. Nikos Markou of the group Lesvos Solidarity, which works with Bry, described the Norwegian as a “kind and generous man,” who divides his time between Lesbos and Norway. “Everyone likes him. He would help out with the refugees anyway he could, peeling potatoes, handing out meals,” he said. “I don’t think he really understood why he was arrested. We have received so many messages of support from people who have worked with him,” he said. “He’s a great photographer and a sensitive guy, a wonderful man.” ___ Gatopoulos reported from Athens, Greece