Barcelona (AFP) - The German captain of rescue vessel Sea-Watch 3, Carola Rackete, who was temporarily arrested in Italy for docking without permission so she could let rescued migrants land, said Tuesday her "actions were justified".
Rackete, 31, was arrested on June 29 and held for several days after the Sea-Watch 3 hit an Italian police speedboat while entering the port of Lampedusa island despite a ban from entering Italy's waters.
She faces an Italian investigation on allegations of aiding and abetting illegal immigration and entering Italian waters in violation of the ban.
"I am still under investigation by the Italian authorities but am I worried? Honestly no, because my actions were justified," she said in Barcelona as she picked up a gold medal from the Catalonia's regional parliament, the chamber's highest award.
Italy's interior minister at the time, Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right League, reacted furiously to Rackete's actions, calling her a threat to national security.
The Catalan parliament also awarded a gold medal to the founder of Spanish migrant rescue charity Proactiva Open Arms, Oscar Camps, whose boat spent three weeks in August stranded off the coast of Italy because Rome refused it permission to dock and unload the migrants it had on board.
Under new laws introduced by Salvini, ships that enter Italian waters without authorisation face a fine of up to one million euros. The ships can also be seized.
Italy bans private rescue ships from bringing migrants ashore, arguing it has borne too much responsibility for handling migration to Europe.
However Italy's new coalition government, which excludes Salvini's anti-migrant party, is facing calls to ease the ex-interior minister's hardline immigration rules.