The two Afghan migrants Amir Zahiri and Akif Razuli were sentenced to 50 years imprisonment in September 2020 for “facilitating the unauthorised entry of undocumented migrants”, i.e. accused of being smugglers, despite a lack of evidence, and the fact that both are themselves refugees seeking asylum. Their appeal trial, which has already been postponed twice, will take place in Mytilene on Lesvos on 8 December 2022. The appeal trial was first interrupted on 18 March 2022, and later postponed on 7 April 2022, on questionable grounds. The request to release the two accused until the next trial date was also rejected by the court at that time, despite the proposal of the prosecution to accept their lawyers’. Several initiatives demand to drop the charges and immediate release of the accused.
Amir Akif and Akif Razuli fled from Afghanistan trying to reach Europe in search of a life in safety. With Europe’s ever-increasing closure of borders and the lack of safe and legal ways to enter Europe and claim asylum, they were forced to embark on the dangerous journey on a rubber boat across the Aegean Sea. Amongst the other people in the boat was also Amir’s young daughter and his heavily pregnant wife.
They made their journey in March 2020, the month in which the Greek government announced the suspension of one of the most fundamental human rights – the right to apply for asylum, and consequently charged people seeking protection with their own “unauthorised entry”, blatantly contradicting EU law and the Geneva Convention.
In their first trial, Amir and Akif testified that the Greek coast guard attacked the boat as soon as they had entered Greek waters and tried to push it back into Turkish waters using metal poles. In doing so, they punctured the boat, causing water to enter and putting the life of the people onboard at risk. As the boat was about to sink, the coast guard eventually took them on board.
Following this deeply traumatizing experience, the coast guard proceeded with heavily beating up Amir and Akif, arbitrarily accusing the two of being the smugglers. According to Amir’s wife who had to witness all of this together with her daughter, they only stopped when she held up their young child in front of her husband begging the men to stop.
As soon as they arrived at the Greek island of Lesvos, Amir Zaheri and Akif Razuli were separated from the rest of the group and brought to the police station. They were since held in pre-trial detention and sentenced to 50 years in prison on 8th of September 2020.
Although there is no evidence against them, both defendants have now been in prison for almost 3 years and are awaiting their appeal.
Despite the abundance of evidence of systematic push-backs by the Greek coast guard, attempts have been made to shift the blame onto migrants by criminalizing them. This is in stark contrast to the complete impunity of violence against migrants at the Greek borders.
The cases of Amir and Razuli are not unique.
CPT-Aegean Migrant Solidarity: “People charged with smuggling offenses form the second largest prison population in Greece. Finally these unjust procedures are being brought into the spotlight. Many of these migrants are put into the prison system and sentenced without credible evidence and without anyone knowing or caring who they are.”
All observers, relatives and people showing solidarity hope that this week will see an end to the illegal and political trial of Amir Zahiri and Akif Razuli.
Lorraine Leete from Legal Centre Lesvos, who is defending Akif Razuli, states:
“Amir and Razuli should never have been arrested, let alone convicted and imprisoned without evidence of the alleged crime. Even though the two will never get back the nearly three years they spent in prison, we hope that this miscarriage of justice will be corrected as their appeal continues.”
borderline-europe: “Long prison sentences for refugees because they dared to arrive in Europe? The European Union’s treatment of people on the move in the 21st century is nothing but shameful and pathetic and we must fight it together.”
Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe e.V., You can’t evict Solidarity and Deportation Monitoring Aegean have been following the trial since it began. We continue to stand in solidarity with the defendants, no matter how long it takes for Amir Zahiri and Akif Razuli to be free again.
We demand the release of Amir Zaheri and Akif Razuli and acquittal on all charges!
We demand freedom for all those imprisoned as “boat drivers” and an end to the criminalisation of people on the move!
The European Union must end the arbitrary detention of refugees and migrants!
Legal Centre Lesvos
Phone: +30 695 5074725
You can’t evict Solidarity
Phone: +49 152 19255205
Twitter: @cantevict; #FreeAmirAndRazuli