Press release of the solidarity campaign Free The Moria 6 from 12.06.2021
Political verdict against four juvenile refugees of Moria 6 after fire in Moria camp +++ Sentenced to 10 years imprisonment despite lack of evidence +++ Trial observers inside criticize irregularities in the trial and the prejudgement of the defendants
Following the fire in the Moria camp, four juvenile refugees on Chios were sentenced today (Saturday) to 10 years in prison for “arson endangering human life” despite being minors. Two of the total of six defendants had already been sentenced in March at the Juvenile Court in Lesvos. After today’s verdict, international trial observers criticized the lack of evidence and spoke of an unfair trial in which the public was excluded. In front of the court building, dozens of people nevertheless showed their solidarity with the defendants.
The vocal demand of over 70 European organizations and hundreds of individuals for a transparent trial was not met. Despite the lack of clear evidence of the four defendants’ involvement in the multiple fires, they were found guilty after a two-day trial.
Only 15 people were allowed in the courtroom; the public, journalists and legal observers were excluded. At the same time, there were at least six police officers in the room – a disproportionate and unnecessary number that would not have been necessary to secure the court.
The six defendants were presented as guilty from the outset. For example, the Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis, had already stated in an interview with CNN on September 16, 2020: “The camp was set on fire by six Afghan refugees who were arrested.”
But none of the 15 prosecution witnesses who testified in court had seen the defendants on the alleged night of the crime. The court relied solely on the written testimony of a witness, who can no longer be found, who claims to have seen the defendants set fire to Camp Moria on the first night of the fire. However, his testimony is full of contradictions. For example, the lawyers explained that the “absent main witness” had only named common first names of people from the camp, on the basis of which the police arrested six people. In this regard, defense attorney Natasha Dailiani stated, “The only witness who identified the defendants did not present himself to the court. His written testimony was full of inconsistencies.”
Nevertheless, the three judges and four lay judges unanimously ruled that the defendants were guilty of arson endangering human life in connection with the destruction of private property. The four defendants had already been in pre-trial detention for nine months before the trial. Despite the available documents proving the minors of three of the defendants, they were not recognized as such. Yesterday’s request by their lawyers to have the trial heard by the Juvenile Court was rejected. The two defendants, officially recognized as minors, had already been sentenced to five years imprisonment by the Juvenile Court on Lesvos in March 2021; even then, observers had spoken of an unfair trial. After the end of today’s trial, Annina Mullis, who observed the trial for Democratic Lawyers Switzerland (DJS) and European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDH), summarizes: “Based on the impressions gathered outside the courthouse and on the detailed information provided by the lawyers, I share their assessment that the trial as a whole cannot stand up to the standards of a fair trial.”
Defense attorney Effie Doussi states, “We will exhaust all legal remedies to ensure that the defendants get a fair trial and a clear verdict that the defendants are innocent people.”
Oda Becker is an activist and member of the Solidarity Campaign, has followed both trials and is in continuous contact with the victims as well as their social environment. Commenting on the trial, she said, “We will continue to support the wrongfully convicted boys and their families in solidarity! The case of Moria 6 is not the first time that migrants have been arbitrarily arrested and charged in Greece. This practice has long been part of the inhumane EU border regime. However, in the current political environment, the criminalization of migration has reached a new level, as has the illegal pushbacks of migrant:s by the authorities.”
For all those fighting for justice and against racism, today is a heavy defeat. The sentencing of the four youths is another shocking example of how people on the run are criminalized in order to divert attention from the responsibility of those who make the existence of a camp like “Moria” possible in the first place.
Further information and contacts:
Valeria Hänsel, migration researcher and spokesperson for #FreeTheMoria6.