The “Moria 6” Appeal Court

Greek trials continue to display concerning patterns of racist rhetoric and a complete disregard for evidence
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Three banners in solidarity with the Moria 6 trial are tied to a fence outside the Mytilene court house

On 4 March, in front of the ‘Mixed Jury Appeals Court of Felonies’ four defendants for the “Moria 6” case started their appeal. The four young men were charged with “arson in conjunction with others, that endangered life and caused serious damages in facilities of common interest.” All four of them had already been held for one year in pre-trial detention, and another 2.5 years in prison after their conviction at the first trial.

The procedure

After the first adjournment, the trial continued on 6 March.  The lawyers for the defendants filed three appeals in cassation and for annulment, due to the inconsistencies of the interrogation procedure. More specifically, they asked for the annulment of the procedure since the indictment wasn’t delivered to the defendants in a language they could understand. However, once more, the Greek courts did not consider this a necessary piece of the trial, although the law provides for it. The second annulment was to contest the presence of a Civil Action attorney, since the interests of the client he was representing were not part of the issues examined in these hearings. Again, the judges decided to allow for his presence throughout the procedure and reexamine the appeal after the presentation of all evidence. However, they could not deny the third appeal for the incompetence of the court, since three of the four defendants were minors at the time of the arson. The evidence presented by their lawyers could not be denied, although the prosecutor sought this. Due to this development, the three defendants were referred to the competent court for minors and were released under restrictive conditions.

The hearings continued with the examination of the witnesses and the rest of the evidence concerning the fourth defendant. Throughout the procedure, the phrasing of the prosecutor demonstrated a hostile and racist attitude toward the defendant’s identity. She kept repeating all the racist narratives of an “alien invasion,” that “[the migrants] should have stayed home anyway,” and “it is the locals who have suffered the most.” Her rhetoric confirmed what many lawyers and human rights organizations have highlighted about the institutional racism encountered in the Greek courts. Most of the time during the appeal, it was evident that the court wasn’t examining the validity of the so-called “evidence” but was searching for the most convenient scapegoat, which in this case, could be found in the young man that was left to be tried. All the evidence presented by the defendants’ lawyers and witnesses was ignored, eventually leading to his conviction. The defendant was held by a majority guilty verdict, with two members of the jury voting for his innocence. After the court examined the mitigation circumstances that were pleaded by the defence, the defendant was sentenced to eight years imprisonment.

Reflections

There are very mixed feelings about the procedure and the results of this case. On the one hand, the recognition of the court that three of the defendants were minors at the time of the alleged crimes, which led to their release, was very important. It was official proof of the malfunction of the Greek judicial system, which led three children to imprisonment for another 2.5 years after their original pre-trial detention. However, they were not acquitted of the very obviously unproven charges, leaving them in limbo, until their trial in front of the competent court. On the other hand, watching a procedure that can only be likened to a kangaroo trial is very worrying for the independence and impartiality of the Greek judicial system. From the phrasing used by the court officials, to how the evidence and the testimonies are explained and perceived, we are pessimistic about how likely it will be for people, especially those coming from vulnerable populations, to seek justice.

The struggle against racism is hard, the struggle against institutional racism is even harder!

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