The Latest: Judge ends house arrest of migrant ship captain

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An Italian Coast Guard boat patrols next to the Sea-Watch 3 vessel, in the Mediterranean Sea just off the coasts of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, Thursday, June 27, 2019. Carola Rackete, the captain of the humanitarian rescue ship said that Italian law enforcement officials have told them that a resolution is near for 42 migrants rescued at sea that Italy’s populist government has so far refused to allow to disembark. (ANSA/Matteo Guidelli via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — The Latest on migration issues in Europe (all times local):

9:10 p.m.

A judge has denied Italian prosecutors’ request to uphold house arrest for the captain of a migrant rescue ship who hit a police boat while disobeying orders not to enter an Italian port.

The ruling in Sicily on Tuesday night means 31-year-old Carola Rackete no longer is in custody, though it wasn’t immediately clear if she can leave Italy.

RAI state Italian TV said the judge concluded that the German captain was “doing her duty saving human lives” when she docked the ship belonging to a German humanitarian group at an Italian island last week in defiance of Italian authorities.

The Sea-Watch 3 had rescued 40 migrants in the Mediterranean 17 days before Rackete docked the ship boat at Lampedusa.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini refuses to let charity rescue boats enter Italy’s ports to disembark migrants rescued in the Mediterranean from the unseaworthy vessels launched by smugglers from Libya.

Sea-Watch 3 rammed an Italian police boat when docking.

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2:30 p.m.

An Italian prosecutor says investigators have not found any proof that migrant traffickers are in cahoots with charity rescue groups.

Italian news agency ANSA quoted Sicily-based Prosecutor Luigi Patronaggio as telling lawmakers in Rome that they haven’t found any trace of communication that suggests traffickers are tipping charity rescue groups about the whereabouts of migrants so they “come closer and get them.'”

Anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini won’t let humanitarian rescue boats disembark migrants because he contends they essentially help traffickers.

Patronaggio is currently investigating the German captain of Sea-Watch 3, which docked at an Italian island last week without Italy’s permission and disembarked 40 rescued migrants.

At a judge’s closed-door hearing Monday to determine if Capt. Carola Rackete stays under house arrest, Patronaggio said he argued that Rackete deliberately steered her vessel into a police motorboat in her path.

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1:20 p.m.

German humanitarian group Sea-Watch says the captain of its rescue ship detained in Italy acted in accordance with international law when she forced her way into port in Lampedusa with 40 migrants on board.

Captain Carola Rackete was expected to learn Tuesday whether she’ll remain under house arrest as the investigation continues into her actions, which included ramming a border police motorboat.

Sea-Watch spokesman Ruben Neugebauer said the 31-year-old had announced her plans to dock after declaring an emergency 60 hours earlier and compared the situation to a police vehicle preventing an ambulance from reaching a hospital

Neugebauer told reporters in Berlin that “if anyone is responsible, it’s certainly not Carola.”

Supporters in Italy and Germany have pledged over 1.3 million euros ($1.48 million) for Sea-Watch in recent days.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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