[Press release 9.12.2022] Delayed “justice” in appeal trial: Amir and Akif will finally be freed!

Press release 9.12.2022

Press release of the initiatives Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe e.V., You can’t evict Solidarity and Deportation Monitoring Aegean on 8 December 2022

Delayed “justice” in appeal trial: Amir and Akif will finally be freed!

Yesterday, 8 December 2022, the twice postponed appeal trial of Amir Zahiri and Akif Razuli took place in Mytilini, Greece. At the end the three judge Appeal Court acquitted Akif, but found Amir guilty of “boat driving” and sentenced him to 8 years in prison. Compared to the first instance decision, his sentence was substantially reduced, which means that he is eligible for early release on parole. The initiatives Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe e.V., You can’t evict Solidarity and Deportation Monitoring Aegean observed the case of the two on Lesvos and welcome their upcoming release from prison.

After a day of suspense as to whether the trial would take place or again be postponed, the trial finally started late on Thursday afternoon. Four witnesses testified for the defendants, who were represented by lawyers from the Legal Center Lesvos and Human Rights Legal Project Samos.

At the close of the trial, the prosecutor proposed that Akif be found not guilty, due to the lack of any evidence that he was driving the boat, and the judges agreed.

Despite doubt being raised as to Amir’s guilt, the Court found Amir guilty of facilitating illegalised entry – i.e. “boat driving”. They rejected the argument that Amir was forced to drive the boat out of necessity to save the life of his family and others on the boat – a legal reason for acquittal. However, the court did reduce his sentence to 8 years based on mitigating circumstances, so he now can apply for early release, given his time earned working and studying while in prison. This result, while insufficient, is welcome news for his family.

Although there was never credible evidence against them, both defendants have now been in prison for almost 3 years.

The Coast Guard witness – the State’s sole witness against Akif and Amir – failed to appear once again to testify in court yesterday. In their scheduled appeal trial in April of 2022, said witness didn’t show up, which was used as an excuse to postpone the trial.

This is unfortunately a common occurance in these “boat driving” cases, where the Coast Guard or police are the only witnesses against the accused. Just this Monday, in the case of A.B.,[add citation to our joint press release about the case], the Mytilene Court posponed A.B.’s trial until May 2023, because the Coast Guard witness did not show up for trial, and did not give any excuse for his absence. While the Court fined the Coast Guard officer 200 Euros for failing to show up, this is a mere slap on the wrist, while A.B.’s life is again kept in limbo for another six months.

Yesterday, the Coast Guard witness who had given written testimony against Amir and Akif again failed attend the trial. This time, fortunately, the case went forward.

It is important to recall that the defendants testified in the first trial that when they reached Greek waters in their journey from Turkey in March 2020, the Hellenic Coast Guard attempted to push them back to Turkey, and in the process damaged the boat causing it to start sinking. According to the defendants’ testimony, the Coast Guard was then forced to take all the passengers on board and bring them to Greece. Of particular importance, yesterday it was the Prosecutor who raised the issue of whether or not there was an attempted pushback by the Coast Guard during Amir and Akif’s crossing, in his questioning of the defendants. The continued absense of the Coast Guard witness is also of note, given the implications that he may have been involved in this attempted pushback – the real crime in this case.

About 40 people from solidarity groups and the press were present inside the courtroom and gathered outside following the trial. At 7pm, when the verdicts and sentences were announced, the two were greeted with banners and chants celebrating their freedom.

“Yesterday’s acquittal of Akif Razuli, and reduced sentence for Amir Zahiri was a small victory. But this is a very small step in the context in which there are still thousands of people who are imprisoned in Greece with the same charge, simply because they were looking for a better future. We will stand by all those who are in prison for crossing borders and fight with them for their freedom.”, said Kim Schneider from the initiative You can`t evict Solidarity.

Vicky Aggelidou, from the Legal Centre Lesvos, who represented Akif Rasuli stated: “After almost three years, this result is the bare minimum of what Akif deserves. He came to Greece as a refugee and found himself in prison without any evidence against him. We hope that the unjust anti-smuggling law that he and Amir were charged under will be abolished and that the persecution of refugees in the cogs of the Greek justice system will come to an end”.

Annina Mullis, Trial Observer from European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights & Swiss Democractic Lawyers: If I only consider this one trial, I have nothing to criticise from a procedural point of view. However, the prosecution of Akif Razuli and Amir Zahiri is not made of this one trial. Even if previous violations were corrected by acquitting Akif Razuli, he will not get back any of the nearly three years he spent in prison for no reason. And we must not forget that Amir Zahiri was again found guilty. Although the sentence was drastically reduced and Amir Zahiri now can hope to soon be released on parole, it still is a politically motivated conviction in a trial that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

CPT-AMS team stated: “Yesterday’s trial partially restore a great injustice against Amir and Akif. We hope that in the future we will never again see similar cases of people being convicted without evidence and witnesses and without adequate interpretation, as was the case in the first trial of Amir and Akif.”

Press contacts:
Lorraine Leete
Legal Centre Lesvos
@legalcentrelesvos.org
Phone: +30 695 5074725

Home

Kim Schneider
You can’t evict Solidarity
cantevictsolidarity@riseup.net
Phone: +49 152 19255205
Twitter: @cantevict; #FreeAmirAndRazuli
Website: https://cantevictsolidarity.noblogs.org/

[Press release] Twice postponed appeal trial of Amir and Razuli to be continued this

Press release of the initiatives Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe e.V., You can’t evict Solidarity and Deportation Monitoring Aegean on 6 December 2022

Twice postponed appeal trial of Amir and Razuli to be continued this week – Demand to drop the charges and release the accused

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 initiavives demand to drop the charges and immediate lrelease 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 criminalising 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.
“People charged with smuggling offences 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.” CPT-Aegean Migrant Solidarity

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 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!

Press contacts:
Lorraine Leete
Legal Centre Lesvos
@legalcentrelesvos.org
Phone: +30 695 5074725

Home

Kim Schneider
You can’t evict Solidarity
cantevictsolidarity@riseup.net
Phone: +49 152 19255205
Twitter: @cantevict; #FreeAmirAndRazuli
Website: https://cantevictsolidarity.noblogs.org/

[Statement, 14.6.2022] Criminalisation of refugees reaches new level of escalation: Young woman faces trial in Greece for attempted suicide

Update down

Statement of the initiatives CPT Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe e.V. and You can’t evict Solidarity 14/06/2022

Criminalisation of refugees reaches new level of escalation: young woman faces trial in Greece for attempted suicide

On 22 June 2022, a 27-year-old woman who, in desperation, attempted to self-immolate in the notorious Moria 2 camp on the Greek island of Lesvos, now faces trial for arson.

On 21 February 2021, the heavily pregnant M.M. had attempted to take her own life by setting herself on fire at the new Mavrovouni Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) (also called Kara Tepe or Moria 2) on Lesvos. The neighbouring residents in the camp rescued her from the burning tent and extinguished the fire with water bottles and towels. M.M. suffered injuries all over her body and was taken, under guard, to hospital.
However, even more cruel than the burns: instead of providing help and psychological care to the traumatised family, M.M. was charged with arson with intent, endangering life and the objects of others as well as with damage of an object of common utility by means of fire after the incident.

At the time of the desperate act, M.M. had already been living with her husband and three small children in the camp “Moria 2” for more than five months under inhuman conditions. The situation in the camp was catastrophic in the winter of 2020/21. The area is close to the sea and completely unsuitable for living: The tents repeatedly collapse or are flooded due to strong winds and heavy rain. There is a lack of medical care, privacy, electricity, running water, hot showers, functioning toilets and other hygiene facilities. As if this were not enough, on 23 January 2021, the Greek government publicly confirmed that dangerous levels of lead had been found in soil samples.

M.M.’s lawyer from the organisation HIAS Greece points out that pregnant women are on the list of vulnerable groups that should be given special reception conditions; therefore, as a pregnant woman, M.M. should have been moved to suitable accommodation.

In the meantime, the family and their now four children were able to resettle in Germany, following a corresponding application by her lawyer. M.M. is still severely traumatised and the whole family is suffering greatly from the ongoing prosecution. Even in Germany, the family has not yet received the necessary psychological care to be able to come to terms with their traumatic experiences and face the upcoming trial.

The prosecution of M.M. for her suicide attempt, which is not punishable under the Greek penal code and is now brutally classified as intentional arson, is an escalation of the criminalisation of people seeking protection. It is also a distraction from the responsibility of the Greek state and the EU to ensure adequate living conditions for people seeking protection. Following the same pattern, six young men and teenagers were charged and convicted, without any evidence, for allegedly setting the fire that led to the complete destruction of the original Moria camp in September 2020. (https://freethemoria6.noblogs.org/)

Alice, borderline-lesvos: “It is the most incredibly humiliating criminalization case we have ever heard of. A woman, a family in desperate need for help, was screaming for help months before the tragedy happened. They could not survive bringing another child into the world while still being in the camp. She saw no other option than to harm herself in order to escape the stress and pain she was in. We met her after still being in deep pain about the lives of their four children… and then the shock: Instead of helping the family, the mother of four children is charged with arson. Instead of evacuating them many many months before from the horrible conditions they were living in, giving them a safe space to care for a newborn, she was criminalized. M.M. is an example for the Greek migration managers to show no tolerance for any needs that refugees will speak out for.

Kim, “You can`t evict Solidarity” campaign: “The case against M.M. is by far not the first time that migrants in Greece have been charged on absurd grounds and without evidence. However, in the current political environment, the criminalisation of migration has reached a new level, as have the brutal pushbacks of migrants by the Greek Coast Guard and Frontex.

Christina, CPT Aegean Migrant Solidarity: “Unfortunately, the Greek authorities surprise us every time with the ever-increasing criminalisation of migration and migrants. Apart from rescuing people at sea and solidarity, the Greek authorities go one step further by criminalising desperation. Desperation that they themselves have created in the incarcerated men and women in the detention centres. The case of M.M. is a monument to inhuman treatment and devaluation of life.”

In May 2022, we celebrated the success of the acquittal of N., a young father who was charged by the Greek judiciary with endangering the welfare of a child after the tragic death of his son during the crossing from Turkey to the EU. This case also exemplified the cynical political approach under which traumatised refugees are prosecuted on flimsy grounds. Even in the case of an acquittal, these proceedings cause immense psychological damage to those affected. The systematic criminalisation of those seeking protection only serves the purpose of distraction and deterrence, to the distress of people who have already become victims of a racist system that forces them to flee and, at the same time, wants to punish them for seeking a life in safety. The young father’s acquittal was only possible thanks to the large solidarity network that fought for his release together with his lawyers, but most cases of criminalisation of migration take place away from public attention and usually result in years of imprisonment. (https://freethesamostwo.com/de/ueber/)

We demand a fair and transparent trial on 22 June! This can only lead to an acquittal for M.M.
We stand in solidarity with M.M. and her family and against the deadly European border regime!

We call on the Greek state and the EU to take responsibility for the inhumane camps!
– Stop the criminalisation of refugees and migration!
– Stop the isolation of people on the move at the borders of the EU!
– No more Morias!
– Drop the charges against M.M.!

Questions and interview requests: cantevictsolidarity@riseup.net
Contact and information about legal aspects see HIAS https://www.hias.org/sites/default/files/press_release-mm_case.pdf

 

UPDATE

The trial is postponed!!! There is no new date yet. The court in Lesvos is once again relying on the deferral of justice, demoralisation and exhaustion. This approach is now an established part of the brutal criminalisation of migrants and solidarity groups and requires a lot of energy and resources. M.M. and her family remain in uncertainty and are not allowed to come to terms with their traumatic experiences.

A witness for the prosecution, a tent neighbour of M.M., did not appear. Although his written testimony was available, the court took the opportunity to postpone the trial. We are outraged and angry!

The trial took place, once again, in a hostile atmosphere. The motion of the defence to lift the obligation according to which the severely traumatized woman must constantly report to the Greek embassy, was also rejected.

We continue to stand in solidarity with M.M. and her family!

[Press statement, 7 June 2022] Still no justice for the Moria6

Press statement, 7 June 2022:

Still no justice for the Moria6

Mytilene. Today, Tuesday 7 June 2022, A.A. and M.H., two of the six teenager charged and convicted for the fires in Moria camp in September 2020, stood before the Juvenile Court in Mytilene/Lesvos. In what was once again a very hostile and far from impartial trial, the first instance verdict was upheld despite the fact that there is still no credible evidence. Only the sentence was reduced from five to four years.

The two teenager had come to Lesbos from Afghanistan as unaccompanied minors seeking protection in Europe. They were only 17 years old at the time of their arrest in September 2020. They were arrested after the Moria camp burned down completely on 8 and 9 of September 2020 and have now been in detention for almost 2 years.
On 9 March 2021, they were found guilty of “arson endangering human life” by the Mytilene Juvenile Court in a first trial that disregarded basic procedural standards. Although no credible evidence could be brought against them, both were sentenced to 5 years imprisonment without recognition of mitigating circumstances.(1)

Today’s appeal trial was also riddled with improprieties and procedural errors, even before the trial. As the court forgot to send the first instance verdict to the Court of Appeal, the date for the appeal hearing was set at extremely short notice, leaving very little time for the team of the Legal Center Lesvos to prepare the defence.

While many supporters of the two defendants had gathered in front of the court, the injustices continued in the courtroom: the prosecutor had nominated 26 witnesses – almost all of them are police officers and residents of the village of Moria near the burnt down catastrophic camp Moria. None of them could identify the defendants. At the same time, the two witnesses for the defence, who were supposed to testify about the catastrophic conditions before the fire in the camp, were not admitted by the court.Only one defence witness was admitted, a member of M.H.’s family.
At the end of the trial, the two were found guilty again, but their sentences were reduced from five to four years because of their “good behaviour in prison”.

In the end, the release of at least one of the accused, A.A., could still be obtained today: Already at the beginning of March 2022, the lawyers filed an application for the release of the two teenager, since both had achieved the prerequisites for a reduction of sentence and release according to Greek law through work and school attendance in prison, as well as through proof of a permanent residence. However, the court will not decide on M.H.’s release until 5 July.

Christina Karvouni, CPT Aegean Migrant Solidarity: “We should note once again, two years later, that the crime is that the Moria detention centre existed. Instead of the Greek justice system investigating this crime, it has chosen, with unsubstantiated accusations, to put the burden of its destruction on 6 people, two of them recognized minors.”

Julia from borderline-europe: “While Europe has already forgotten Moria and the fire, two minors have now spent two full years in prison. Hopefully they will be released soon, but Europe has destroyed their lives. Several times.”

Luca Wolf, from the campaign “You can`t evict Solidarity” and part of the Solidarity Campaigne #FreeTheMoria6, which supports the defendants, explains: “We are angry about this renewed injustice. But we will continue to fight and demand freedom for all Moria 6 detainees!”

The appeal hearing against the other four teenager of the Moria6 will take place on the 6.3.2023. The teenager convicted as adults were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in a political trial, also without evidence. Also in this case, the only so-called witness did not appear in court. (2)

(1) On the first trial https://cantevictsolidarity.noblogs.org/post/2021/03/10/untragbares-gerichtsurteil-willkurliche-verurteilung-zweier-gefluechteter-fur-den-brand-im-moria-lager/#FreeMoria6 https://pic.twitter.com/1SAfWzybgS

(2) https://freethemoria6.noblogs.org/post/2021/06/15/13-06-2021-press-release-moria-6-sentenced-to-10-years-imprisonment-after-fire-in-moria-camp/ 

Further information and contacts:
Tina Weiß, spokesperson for #FreeTheMoria6
Phone: +49 152 194 240 14
Email: freethemoria6@riseup.net
Twitter: #FreeTheMoria6
Blog: https://freethemoria6.noblogs.org/

[Free the Moria 6] Appeal court against 2 of the Moria 6 on 7 June 2022

Appeal court against 2 of the Moria6 on 7 June 2022

On Tuesday 7 June 2022, two of the six teenagers charged and convicted for the fires that destroyed Moria camp in September 2020, will stand before the Mytilene Juvenile Court on the Greek island of Lesvos. When they were arrested in September 2020, the two teenagers, who are now 18 and 19 years old, were two of the more than 1000 unaccompanied minors in the disastrous Moria camp.

On 9 March 2021, in a trial that disregarded basic procedural standards, they were found guilty of “arson endangering human life” by the Mytilene Juvenile Court, although no credible evidence was presented against them. Both were sentenced to 5 years imprisonment without any mitigating circumstances being recognized.

The scandal continues: Due to a mistake – the court forgot to send the first instance verdict to the court of appeal, the date for the appeal hearing was set at very short notice.

But that was not all: at the beginning of March 2022, the lawyers filed an application for the release of the two youths. Both have achieved a sentence reduction in prison by working and attending school. They have also fulfilled the proof of a permanent residence. This would allow them to be released under Greek law. A decision on their release should have been made long ago. Incriminatingly, the hearing to decide on their applications for release will also take place on 7 June 2022, but in Athens. A challenge also for the team from the Legal Center Lesvos.

We are standing solidarity!

#FreeMoria6

[07.04.2022] press statement: Cruel and unjustified postponement of Amir and Razuli appeal trial 

Press statement of the initiatives Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe e.V., You can’t evict Solidarity and Deportation Monitoring Aegean, 7 April 2022

Cruel and unjustified postponement of Amir and Razuli appeal trial 
#FreeAmirAndRazuli

The appeal trial of Amir Zahiri (27) and Akif Razuli (24) scheduled for today in Mytilene court, was, once again, postponed to a later date, 8 December 2022.

After being interrupted on 18 March (1) due to the caseload of the court, the trial has now been postponed under the pretext that a witness, an officer from the Hellenic Coast Guard, was absent in court.

This witness was already absent from the first instance trial and had provided a written report which only related to charges of “causing a shipwreck”, for which both defendents were acquitted in the first instance. It is therefore highly questionable why his irrelevant testimony was a sufficient excuse to postpone the trial once again. Furthermore, the court had the authority to read his written testimony in court, rather than postpone the trial, as they had in the first trial.

Despite a request by the lawyers to free both men until their trial date in December,  with which the Public prosecutor agreed, the Court of three judges finally denied the petition, ordering that they remain in prison.

Following today’s hearing, Amir and Razuli will thefore be forced back into prison for at least eight more months, away from their families and friends. To date they have already spent over two years behind bars, despite the lack of evidence against them. Razuli and Amir have already been transferred twice back and forth between Lesvos and detention centres in Serres and Chios respectively, each time with the hope of having a final decision in their case and being released. Causing extreme and uncessary distress, each postponement is an obstacle to the a fair and speedy administration of justice. This further delay is a denial of justice.

The repeated criminalisation of migrants, such as in this case, stands in stark contrast to the complete impunity for violence against migrants at Greece’s borders, despite the insurmountable evidence of systemic pushbacks carried out by the Hellenic Coast guard in coordination with the Greek police.

Vicky Angelidou, from the Legal Centre Lesvos, and one of the lawyers for the accused, stated “with shocking decisions such as today’s and the decision in the first trial, Greek courts are destroying the lives of people who only wanted a better future in Europe, showing their total detatchment from reality, and the lives of the people they are judging.”

A spokesperson for CPT-Aegean Migrant Solidarity said: “People charged with smuggling offences constitute the second largest prison population in Greece. We are glad that the spotlight is finally being put on these unjust procedures, but as today’s decision has shown, even this is not enough. On a regular basis migrants are swallowed into the prison system, convicted without anybody knowing or caring who they are.”

Annina Mullis, a representative of the Swiss Democratic Lawyers’ Association, who was observing today’s trial stated, “an 8 month postponement for no reason is a clear violation of procedural rights – based on the European Convention on Human Rights, courts are obliged to move procedures forward expeditiously, especially when defendants are in prison. What we have witnessed today was an arbitrary show of force in a politicised court room.”

Kim Schneider, spokesperson for the solidarity initiative You can`t evict Solidarity, pointed out: “It is unbelievable. Once again, the trial of Amir and Razuli has been postponed. We are so furious that we are speechless. We cannot explain this to the young men nor their families whose lives are being destroyed. We need to take political action now.”

The Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe e.V., You can’t evict Solidarity and Deportation Monitoring Aegean have closely followed the trial. We will continue to stand in solidarity with the defendants, no matter how long it will take to achieve justice for Amir and Razuli.

Press contacts:Marion BouchetelLegal Centre Lesvosmarion@legalcentrelesvos.orgPhone: +30 697 761 9003@lesboslegal

Kim Schneider
You can’t evict Solidarity
cantevictsolidarity@riseup.net
Phone: +49 152 19255205
Twitter: @cantevict; #FreeAmirAndRazuli

(1) 18.03.2022 – Press release: Appeal trial against Amir and Razuli interrupted after two days of waiting till the 7th of April 2022 https://www.borderline-europe.de/unsere-arbeit/press-release-appeal-trial-against-amir-and-razuli-interrupted-after-two-days-waiting

 

The Dystopia in form of a camp – The “Closed Controlled Access Centre of Samos”

published first by  Deportation Monitoring Aegean  on 24. March 2022

The Dystopia in form of a camp – The “Closed Controlled Access Centre of Samos”

 

The so-called “Closed Controlled Access Centre of Samos” became operational in September 2021, when people were transferred from the old slum-like camp growing out of Vathy town to a remote prison-like complex between the mountains.

Sterile white containers are lined up behind barbed wire, forming a uniform complex of plastic and metal without any apparent signs of individualized or self-determined living. It is a place of total surveillance and control, yet with air-conditioned ISO-boxes, Wi-Fi and laminated floors inside the containers.

Reminiscent of border checkpoints, the entry to the camp is only possible through an elaborate security gate, guarded by private security companies and police. Camera masts surround the entire area and some are positioned to even film inside the ISO-boxes. The whole setting is the realization of a dystopian panopticon: drones are planned to be used, in addition to a software which analyses movement of people in order to avoid gatherings.

Migrants on Samos who refuse to live under total control have little choice but to to hide in the old and partly burned barracks of the old camp close to the town. In-between broken barbed wire, hills of rubbish, old children’s toys, dirty blankets and clothes, people have neither access to water nor electricity, but at least some self-determination. It leaves the small chance of living as a human being, compared to being regarded as a number in the high-security prison-like camp.

The construction of the camp site had already started at the end of 2019 but was speeded up after the fire in Moria, when the EU provided 276 million Euro to the Greek government to build five so-called “Multiple Purpose Reception and Identification Centers” on the Greek islands. The camp construction site on Samos was financed with 48 million to create the new controlled centre.

The rationality behind the multi-million camp project remains opaque, since the implementation of the EU migration-management technocrats’ wet dreams seems to be rather dysfunctional: in the face of violent pushbacks, hardly anyone arrives on the islands so that ‘only’ roughly 300 people are trapped in the facility that was designed to hold about 2000 people and is still under further construction. Since March 2020, there have been no deportations from Greece to Turkey. Consequently, the specially-designed prison in the back of the camp, the pre-removal section (PROKEKA), also seems to remain useless so far, although it has space for 960 people who can be legally held there for 18 months.

The controlled centre complex leaves no doubts on which path the European migration policies with their double standards are following: while white Ukrainian war refugees are welcomed with open arms, BIPOC racialized migrants are constructed as ‘the others’ and pushed back or locked up in clean, remote detention centers under strict surveillance. They are not only denied protection and a life in dignity, but are actively pushed back and killed in violent operations at sea. Countless fatal pushbacks have been documented, such as a recent pushback operation from Samos leading to the death of two men in February 2022.

Press Release 18/03/2022: Appeal trial against Amir and Razuli interrupted after two days of waiting until 7 April 2022

Press statement, 18 March 2022
Appeal trial against Amir and Razuli interrupted after two days of waiting until 7 April 2022 #FreeAmirAndRazuli

The appeal trial of the two young Afghan men convicted in first instance of “facilitating illegal entry” and “illegal entry” to Greece has been interrupted. The defendants Amir Zahiri (27) and Akif Razuli (24) were brought respectively from Chios and Serres prisons, to Mytilene on Lesvos and forced to wait for two days. In violation of the Greek criminal procedural law, they were seated  handcuffed in the court room while awaiting their own trial. They were not given any information about if or when the trial would happen, until it was finally opened today, 18 March at 2:30 pm- just to be halted immediately after. All witnesses and international trial observers who had travelled to Mytilene from different European countries and the Greek mainland were also forced to wait along with Amir and Razuli, among them Amir’s wife and their two children. Also three Members of European Parliament came to testify and observe the trial, as well as the sea rescuer Iasonas Apostolopoulos.

The trial will resume in 20 days, on 7 April 2022. Thereby, the chain of injustice that Amir and Razuli were confronted with over the last years continues: Amir and Razuli were arbitrarily arrested on 12 March 2020, kept in pre-trial detention for seven months and convicted in September 2020 to 50 years imprisonmment without any evidence against them. Now their appeal trial was interrupted.

A Greek trial observer from Aegean Migrant Solidarity stated: “The last two days were very difficult, especially for the people who are in detention without any evidence for so long. For these two days nobody knew if the trial will start or not. The court decided to start the trial today and continue at 7 of April 2022, because they acknowledged the fact that the trial must start in a reasonable time. Lets all be there on 7th of April!”

Marco Aparicio, trial observer from the Spanish Observatori DESC (ESCR Observatory) noted: “Prolonging the process is prolonging the suffering, Amir and Razuli, their relatives and friends have the right to know about their future. This trial, indeed, shows that Europe is used not to criminalize those who cause the suffering but the people who suffer.”

Lorraine Leete from Legal Centre Lesvos, who defended Akif Razuli, explains: “Amir and Razuli should never have been arrested, let alone convicted and imprisoned, given the lack of evidence that they committed the crime they are accused of. While Amir and Razuli will never get back the two years they’ve spent in prison, we hope this miscarriage of justice is rectified at the continuance of their appeal trial next month.”

The Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe e.V., You can’t evict Solidarity and Deportation Monitoring Aegean have closely followed the trial. We will continue to stand in solidarity with the defendants, no matter how long it will take to achieve justice for Amir and Razuli.

Press contacts:
Marion Bouchetel
Legal Centre Lesvos
marion@legalcentrelesvos.org
Phone: +30 697 761 9003

Kim Schneider
You can’t evict Solidarity
cantevictsolidarity@riseup.net
Phone: +49 152 19255205
Twitter: @cantevict; #FreeAmirAndRazuli

 

[3.3.2022] Press release: Justice for Amir and Razuli!

The organizations Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, Borderline Europe e.V., You can’t evict Solidarity and Deportation Monitoring Aegean demand freedom for two young refugees.

The two men from Afghanistan were seeking safety in Europe, but were instead arbitrarily convicted to 50 years imprisonment. The Appeal Trial will take place on 17 March 2022 in Lesvos.

Twitter: @cantevict; #FreeAmirAndRazuli

Amir and Razuli tried to reach Greece on a rubber boat in March 2020. They testified that the Greek coast guard attacked them and tried to push them back to Turkey by force. The attack caused the boat to sink and the coast guard had to take them on board. Amir and Razuli were arbitrarily charged with “facilitating illegal entry” and “provoking a shipwreck”, in addition to their own entry. On the 8th of September 2020 they were sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Amir and Razuli, 25 and 23, 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.1

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 “illegal entry”, blatantly contradicting EU law and the Geneva Convention.

In their first trial, Razuli and Amir 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.2 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 Razuli, 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 and Razuli were separated from the rest of the group and brought to the police station. The coast guard accused them of their own entry, of facilitating the unauthorized entry of the other people on the boat and of having endangered the people’s lives.

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 except for the statement of the coast guards, they were only acquitted of the accusation of “provoking a shipwreck”.

The Appeal Trial will take place on 17 March 2022 on Lesvos and lawyers from the Legal Centre Lesvos and the Human Rights Legal Project on Samos will defend Amir and Razuli in the upcoming trial.

Almost every day, people seeking protection are criminalized for their own flight and arbitrarily sentenced to lengthy prison terms and heavy fines. Recently, a survivor of a shipwreck has even been criminalized for the death of his six-year-old son, who died when they tried to cross from Turkey to Greece (see the campaign Free the #Samos2). Suspects, or what we would deem ‘victims’ of this unjust legislation, usually have limited access to legal assistance. Judgments are often pronounced despite lack of evidence and poor quality of translation. In Greece, the average trial in these cases lasts only around 30 minutes, leading to an average sentence of 44 years and fines over 370.000 Euro. According to official numbers by the Greek ministry of justice, almost 2.000 people are currently in Greek prisons for this reason. However, the fates of these people are seldom known. Arrested immediately upon arrival, most of them are locked away unnoticed, without their names known and no access to support from outside.

We demand a thorough investigation, justice and the release of Amir and Razuli, as well as the dropping of all charges against them!

We demand freedom for all those imprisoned for “boat driving” and the end of criminalization of people on the move!

The European Union must stop the arbitrary incarceration of refugees and migrants!

Press Contacts:

Legal Centre Lesvos

lorraine@legalcentrelesvos.org

You can’t evict Solidarity

cantevictsolidarity@riseup.net

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1 Amir’s wife has meanwhile given birth to their second child. After the trial, Amir met his two-month-old baby for the first time and as he held his child for the first time in his arms, the police shouted at him to give the infant back to the mother, causing his family extreme distress.

2 In the past months, numerous reports emerged bearing testimony to the Greek coast guard’s illegal and cruel practice of violent pushbacks, destroying the engine of refugee boats, disabling the boats, and then leaving the people to their fate in the middle of the sea. Read more about this in the New York Times, the Deutsche Welle and the Spiegel.

Statement & callout from Calais: We will not let ourselves be taken away!

n short, there is
a huge building being besieged (alongside other occupied buildings), and
we are calling for support inside and outside, now and for the days to
come. Attached are images from the roof of the building, and the two
previous statements. Following is the most recent statement.

Statement – We will not let ourselves be taken away!

Since Friday 4 February, we have been occupying a building in Rue
d’Ajaccio, which has been uninhabited for a year. This occupation took
place within the framework of the commemoraction, an international day
of mobilization initiated by the families and relatives of people who
have died at the border, to denounce the murderous migration policies of
the UK, France and the EU.

In Calais, about 1500 people are living on the streets in unacceptable
living conditions. Displaced people occupy wastelands and have no access
to basic services: housing, sanitation, water, food and medical care.
The state imposes conditions of extreme precariousness and invisibility
through illegal evictions every 48 hours, the theft of personal
belongings by the police, the illegal dismantling of living sites
without the possibility of defense in front of a judge, and recurrent
police violence. The French and British governments, alongside Natacha
Bouchard and all their other friends, have deliberately turned a
political issue into a humanitarian crisis, keeping people who want to
cross the border in a context of survival.

But displaced people are not the only ones experiencing precariousness
and lack of access to housing in the Calais region. The entire housing
estate which the building is part of is due to be evicted and then
destroyed. While some people, including those in the building we
occupied, have already been evicted, others are still opposing their
eviction in the absence of any alternative proposals from the town hall.
It is in this context that, when the first police officers arrived on
Monday 7th, many residents came to show their support for the
occupation. We were thus able to express our refusal of the discourse of
war between the poor. French or foreign, with or without papers, a roof
is a right. Moreover, the police refused, on several occasions, to see
the evidence of occupation.

Since 2pm today, a disproportionate police presence has surrounded the
building. The police are not allowing anyone to enter, nor are they
allowing food, water or equipment to be provided.

We restate our demands: we demand an end to all evictions in Calais. We
demand an end to the harassment of people blocked at the border by the
police. We demand the regularisation of all squats in the city. Finally,
we demand the immediate requisition of all empty buildings in Calais,
and that sustainable solutions be provided to all inhabitants, whatever
their administrative status or vulnerability.

Until our demands are met, we will not leave these premises. We refuse
to be intimidated by this police pressure and remind you that the time
limit for ‘délit de flagrance’ is over: there can be no eviction without
an enforceable court decision. We will not let ourselves be taken away!

We call on everyone who is in solidarity with the people on the street
and those blocked at the border, and on everyone who believes in the
right to housing to come and help us defend the buildings we occupy!

The inhabitants”