“I didn’t think saving people is a crime,” said Hanad Abdi Mohammad, 28, a soft-spoken Somali charged as a smuggler after arriving in Greece last December and sentenced to 142 years.

Among the prison inmates of the Greek island of Chios, three young men from Afghanistan and Somalia are serving dramatically long sentences: 50 years for two of them, a staggering 142 for the third, the AP reports.

But these are not violent criminals, even according to their trial verdicts. They were convicted for steering inflatable dinghies carrying them and other migrants after they say smugglers abandoned them in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece.

“I didn’t think saving people is a crime,” said Hanad Abdi Mohammad, 28, a soft-spoken Somali charged as a smuggler after arriving in Greece last December and sentenced to 142 years.

Mohammad told journalists and European Parliament lawmakers visiting the three in prison last week that he had no choice but to drive the boat. The smuggler forced him to take over, hitting him in the face and threatening him with a gun before abandoning the dinghy in rough seas. And people’s lives were at stake. Even with hindsight, he said, “I would do it again, as long as I am saving lives.”

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