For a detailed outline of the trial procedure see post of the lawyers by Legal Centre Lesvos: https://legalcentrelesvos.org/2021/03/09/justice-for-the-moria-6/
On 9th of March 2021, A.A. and M.H. were found guilty for “arson with risk to human life” and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, of which they will have to serve two and a half years in Avlona prison on the Greek mainland.
The two young men from Afghanistan had come to Lesvos seeking asylum as unaccompanied minors and were 17 years old at the time of their arrest. They were arrested after Moria camp burnt to the ground on 8th of September 2020 and held for six moths in pre-trial detention.
The court procedure was permeated with irregularities and failed the core standards of fairness – it was obvious that the two defendants had been determined guilty long before the procedure had even started. It is clear that both of them have been used in a politicized game, made to serve as a scapegoat for the events on 8th September, when the camp burned down. Their conviction should distract from the disastrous situation in the European hotspot camps and the failure of the Greek state to provide adequate protection for refugees that became once again obvious through the fire.
During the trial supporters and friends were sent away by the police, fined or threatened with further repression. For “security reasons” they were not allowed to enter the court room – allegedly in order to protect the identity of defendants in the juvenile court – while 5-7 police officers were constantly present. The supporters were also harrassed while waiting in front of the court. Some were fined 300 Euros for their mere presence. The day before, when the trial was supposed to start but then postponed, one person was even taken to the police station and had his personal belongings searched.
Many people had come from the new Kara Tepe camp to testify in support of the defendants in order to give an alibi, however only two defense witnesses were allowed to participate in the trial. Meanwhile, the prosecution brought 17 witnesses to testify against the defendants. They did not present any credible evidence against them.
The core witness – an Afghan community leader – who had caused their arrest through his testimony failed to show up at the trial and could not be located by the authorities. Nevertheless, his written testimony was considered credible.
Most of the other witnesses only testified about personal losses caused by the fire that were not focused on positively identifying the defendants. Only two police officers claimed to have identified the defendants based on a video showing two people with similar clothes from behind. However, the officers contradicted themselves in their testimonies, describing one of the defendants as “tiny and short” while he is in fact much taller than the testifying police officer himself.
In the end, the defendants were at least aquitted of the charge of ‘membership of a criminal group’ – which could have together with the charge of “arson with risk to human life” resulted in a sentence of up to 15 years. Their lawyers from Legal Centre Lesvos will also appeal the conviction.
Nevertheless, the conviction of the two is another outragous example of how people on the move are criminalized in order to divert attention from those who bear responsibility for the existance of a camp such as Moria and now its successor Kara Tepe. We are sick and tired of watching one case after another of migrants being arbitrarily arrested, beaten, humilitated, detained and sentenced to jail by the so-called “justice system”. This game is as transparent and ridiculous as it is violent, racist and disgusting. Those who have to pay with their lives are the people who enact their right to freedom of movement and are therefore disenfranchised and punished.
As on so many occasions before, after following court procedures against people on the move, we are sad and angry. The 9th of March was a terrible day for anyone struggling for justice and equality. But we have to keep fighting. Four more people accused for setting Moria on fire will probably have their trials soon. The two sentenced people, A.A. and M.H., will appeal the decision.
We have to spread the news, scream in the face of those responsible: those who created the hotspot camps and the EU-Turkey deal, those who keep the camps running and those who profit from this system of racism and inequality.
Freedom for the Moria 6!