Category Archives: Moria

[Lesvos] Outrageous court decision – Two people arbitrarily convicted for setting fire to Moria camp

Justice for the Moria 6!

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!

[Lesvos] Freedom for the imprisoned Moria 6 – Greek state opens trial against two of the six accused after the fire in Moria 2020

Freedom for the imprisoned Moria 6 – Greek state opens trial against two of the six accused after the fire in Moria 2020

Λευτεριά στους 6 φυλακισμένους για τη φωτιά στη Μόρια – Ξεκίνησε η δίκη δύο από τους έξι κατηγορούμενους για την πυρκαγιά στη Μόρια το 2020

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Today, on 8th of March, the court of Mytilini, Lesvos, opened the trial against two young men from Afghanistan. The two arrived to Greece as unaccompanied minors, and were only 17 at the time of their arrest. They are part of the group of six people accused of ‘arson with risk to human life’, who were arrested after the events of September 8, 2020, when Moria camp burned to the ground.

The two defendants, who were arrested as minors, have by now been in pre-trial detention for nearly six months – the maximum time for pretrial detention of minors. The court mobilized several witnesses for the trial, among them the camp management, the police and residents of Moria village. Monitoring the trial is made impossible, because of heavy police presence at the court, and strict and disproportionate Covid-19 movement restrictions. Furthermore, because the defendants were minors at the time of their arrest, their trial is closed to the public.

The trial officially started today, but was immediately interrupted because one of the defendants is ill and suffering from fever. It was only postponed until tomorrow.

So far, the public prosecutor’s office has not presented any credible evidence against any of the six defendants that suggests they were at all involved in the desperate act of resistance of setting the multiple fires which ultimately destroyed the inhumane European Hotspot, Moria camp. However, it seems the authorities are intent on scapegoating the Moria 6 for Europe’s deadly border violence.

There is only one witness against all 6 of the defendants – one of the then Afghan community leaders in Moria Camp. It has been a common practice of the police in Lesvos to coerce community leaders into providing information, through threats of arrest, or in exchange for advantages such as being allowed to leave the island. The 6 defendants are all part of the Hazara Shia minority, which has historically been subjected to violent persecution and systematic discrimination by both Tajic and Pashtu Sunni majorities, along class, race, and religious lines. The only witness against them is Pashtu.

Five of the accused were minors at the time of their arrest, and the sixth was only 18. However, three of the five minors had been unlawfully registered as adults when they arrived in Greece. These three presented original national identification documents to the court following their arrest, showing their actual age, and requested age assessments by medical professionals. Despite this, the documents were rejected as fraudulent, the state medical examiner assessed them as adults, and they continue to be treated as adults by the Greek state.

The two defendants facing trial tomorrow are the two who were recognised as minors at the time of their arrest.

It is likely that the facts will not matter in court. The Greek state is determined to find someone guilty for burning down Europe’s pilot project of the “hot spot” model of detention, confinement on the islands in hellish conditions, and deterence. State authorities had already determined their guilt long before any trial took place. Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis, in an interview with CNN on 16 September 2020, stated “the camp was burned by six Afghani refugees who have been arrested.” In response to a question about the welfare of unaccompanied minors made homeless by the fire, Mitarakis responded by saying that two minors had been arrested alongside four others according to police footage for causing the fire and that “the reason they caused the fire was to blackmail the Greek and other governments to move them out of Moria.”

In September 2020, pictures of the burning camp were circulated in international media, drawing attention once again to the cruel and inhuman treatment people are subject to in Greek’s refugee camps. The fire became a symbol of people’s resistance to this treatment and confinement. It not only brought to light the cruelty of the European border regime but also exposed the Greek state’s disastrous failure to provide protection to migrants, as well as its failure to fulfill its role as “shield of Europe” that the EU Commissioner had assigned to Greece in March 2020.

Over the years, numerous criminal prosecutions in Lesvos have shown that the Greek state will crush any resistance to Europe’s border regime through collective punishment, using the police and courts to arbitrarily arrest, then convict and sentence migrants to long prison sentences, without any evidence, following any protest against state opression. For example, in the summer of 2017, the Moria 35 were violently and arbitrarily arrested on the basis of racial profiling after months of escalating protests and collective organising in Mytilene and inside Moria camp. In their trial, held nine months later in the Mixed Jury Court of Chios, 32 of the 35 were found guilty of causing dangerous bodily harm and given a 26-month suspended prison sentence. In a similar case of the Moria 8, those arbitrarily arrested following a fire in Moria, were eventually acquitted, but 1 of the 8 had previously been held in pre-trial detention for months.

We will not accept that the lives of six young people will be destroyed! We will not let the state and media treat them as scapegoats for the brutality and cruelty of the European border policies of confinement! We demand freedom for all imprisoned and accused!

Solidarity with the Moria 6! Your struggle is our struggle!

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Λευτεριά στους 6 φυλακισμένους για τη φωτιά στη Μόρια – Ξεκίνησε η δίκη δύο από τους έξι κατηγορούμενους για την πυρκαγιά στη Μόρια το 2020

Σήμερα, 8 Μαρτίου 2021, στο δικαστήριο της Μυτιλήνης ξεκίνησε η δίκη δύο νεαρών άνδρων από το Αφγανιστάν. Οι δύο τους είχαν φτάσει στην Ελλάδα ως ασυνόδευτοι ανήλικοι και ήταν μόλις 17 ετών τη στιγμή της σύλληψής τους. Είναι οι δύο από τους νεαρούς που κατηγορούνται για «εμπρησμό με κίνδυνο για την ανθρώπινη ζωή», οι οποίοι συνελήφθησαν μετά τα γεγονότα της 8ης Σεπτεμβρίου 2020, όταν το camp της Μόριας καταστράφηκε από φωτιά.

Οι δύο κατηγορούμενοι, οι οποίοι συνελήφθησαν ως ανήλικοι, είναι προφυλακισμένοι εδώ και σχεδόν έξι μήνες — το μέγιστο επιτρεπόμενο χρονικό διάστημα προφυλάκισης ανηλίκων. Το δικαστήριο έχει κλητεύσει αρκετούς μάρτυρες για τη δίκη, μεταξύ των οποίων τη διοίκηση του στρατοπέδου, μπάτσους και κάτοικους του χωριού Μόρια. Η παρακολούθηση της δίκης δεν είναι εφικτή, λόγω της μεγάλης παρουσίας της αστυνομίας στο δικαστήριο και των αυστηρών και δυσανάλογων περιορισμών κίνησης με πρόσχημα τον κορονοϊό. Επιπλέον, επειδή οι κατηγορούμενοι ήταν ανήλικοι κατά τη σύλληψή τους, η δίκη τους είναι κλειστή για το κοινό.
Η δίκη ξεκίνησε επίσημα σήμερα, αλλά διακόπηκε αμέσως επειδή ένας από τους κατηγορούμενους είναι άρρωστος και έχει πυρετό. Αναβλήθηκε μόνο μέχρι αύριο.
Μέχρι στιγμής, η εισαγγελία δεν έχει παρουσιάσει αξιόπιστα αποδεικτικά στοιχεία εναντίον οποιουδήποτε από τους έξι κατηγορούμενους που να στοιχειοθετούν ότι συμμετείχαν με οποιονδήποτε τρόπο στην απεγνωσμένη πράξη αντίστασης των πολλαπλών εστιών φωτιάς που τελικά κατέστρεψαν το απάνθρωπο ευρωπαϊκό hotspot, το camp της Μόριας. Ωστόσο, φαίνεται ότι οι αρχές προτίθενται να χρησιμοποιήσουν τους 6 συλληφθέντες της Μόριας ως αποδιοπομπαίους τράγους έναντι της θανάσιμης βία της Ευρώπης στα σύνορά της.

Υπάρχει μόνο ένας μάρτυρας εναντίον και των 6 κατηγορουμένων: ένας από τους τότε ηγέτες της αφγανικής κοινότητας στο camp της Μόριας. Αποτελούσε κοινή πρακτική της αστυνομίας στη Λέσβο να πιέζει τους ηγέτες της κοινότητας να παρέχουν πληροφορίες, απειλώντας τους με σύλληψη, ή προσφέροντας ανταλλάγματα, όπως η δυνατότητα να φύγουν από το νησί [βλ.: https://legalcentrelesvos.org/2018/09/02/police-coerce-community-leaders-to-turn-over-individuals-responsible-for-violence-in-moria-camp/]. Οι 6 κατηγορούμενοι ανήκουν όλοι τους στη σιιτική μειονότητα της φυλής Χαζαρά, η οποία ιστορικά έχει υποστεί βίαιες διώξεις και συστηματικές ταξικές, φυλετικές και θρησκευτικές διακρίσεις από τις κυρίαρχες σουνιτικές φυλές, τόσο από τους Τατζίκους όσο και από τους Παστού. Ο μόνος μάρτυρας εναντίον τους ανήκει στη φυλή Παστού.

Πέντε από τους κατηγορούμενους ήταν ανήλικοι τη στιγμή της σύλληψής τους και ο έκτος ήταν μόνο 18 ετών. Ωστόσο, τρεις από τους πέντε ανηλίκους είχαν καταχωριστεί παράνομα ως ενήλικες όταν έφτασαν στην Ελλάδα. Και οι τρεις τους, μετά τη σύλληψή τους, παρουσίασαν στο δικαστήριο ταξιδιωτικά έγγραφα που έδειχναν την πραγματική ηλικία τους και ζήτησαν αξιολογήσεις ηλικίας από επαγγελματίες του ιατρικού τομέα. Παρ’ όλα αυτά, τα έγγραφα απορρίφθηκαν ως πλαστά, ο κρατικός γιατρός που τους εξέτασε τους αξιολόγησε ως ενήλικες και εξακολουθούν να αντιμετωπίζονται ως ενήλικες από το ελληνικό κράτος.
Οι δύο κατηγορούμενοι που θα βρεθούν αύριο στο δικαστήριο είναι οι δύο που αναγνωρίστηκαν ως ανήλικοι κατά τη σύλληψή τους.
Είναι πιθανό ότι τα πραγματικά γεγονότα δεν θα έχουν καμία σημασία στο δικαστήριο. Το ελληνικό κράτος είναι αποφασισμένο να βρει κάποιον ένοχο για τη φωτιά που κατέστρεψε το πιλοτικό σχέδιο της Ευρώπης για το πρότυπο «hotspot» αποτροπής μέσω της κράτησης και αποκλεισμού στα νησιά κάτω από απάνθρωπες συνθήκες. Οι κρατικές αρχές είχαν ήδη καθορίσει την ενοχή τους πολύ πριν διεξαχθεί οποιαδήποτε δίκη. Ο υπουργός μετανάστευσης και ασύλου, Νότης Μηταράκης, σε συνέντευξή του στο CNN στις 16 Σεπτεμβρίου 2020, δήλωσε ότι «το στρατόπεδο κάηκε από έξι Αφγανούς πρόσφυγες που συνελήφθησαν». Η απάντησή του στην ερώτηση για τις συνθήκες ζωής των ασυνόδευτων ανηλίκων που έμειναν άστεγοι από την πυρκαγιά ήταν ότι δύο ανήλικοι συνελήφθησαν μαζί με τέσσερις άλλους σύμφωνα με τα βίντεο της αστυνομίας ως υπαίτιοι για την πυρκαγιά και ότι «ο λόγος που προκάλεσαν τη φωτιά ήταν για να εκβιαστούν οι ελληνικές και άλλες κυβερνήσεις και να τους απομακρύνουν από τη Μόρια» [βλ. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52lWG65Wbq4].

Τον Σεπτέμβριο του 2020, φωτογραφίες από το καμένο camp κυκλοφόρησαν στα διεθνή μέσα ενημέρωσης, τραβώντας την προσοχή στις σκληρές και απάνθρωπες συνθήκες που υποχρώνονται να υποστούν οι έγκλειστοι στα στρατόπεδα προσφύγων της Ελλάδας. Η φωτιά έγινε σύμβολο της αντίστασης σε αυτήν τη μεταχείριση και τον εγκλεισμό. Δεν έφερε στο φως μόνο τη σκληρότητα του ευρωπαϊκού συνοριακού καθεστώτος, αλλά επίσης εξέθεσε την καταστροφική αποτυχία του ελληνικού κράτους να παρέχει προστασία στους μετανάστες, καθώς και το ρόλο της «ασπίδας της Ευρώπης» που είχε αναθέσει τον Μάρτιο 2020 στο ελληνικό κράτος η ευρωπαϊκη επιτροπή.

Τα τελευταία χρόνια, αλλεπάλληλες ποινικές διώξεις στη Λέσβο έχουν δείξει ότι το ελληνικό κράτος είναι αποφασισμένο να συντρίψει οποιαδήποτε αντίσταση στα σύνορα της Ευρώπης, εφαρμόζοντας πρακτικές συλλογικής ευθύνης, χρησιμοποιώντας την αστυνομία και τα δικαστήρια για να συλλάβει αυθαίρετα, να διώξει και να καταδικάσει σε μεγάλες ποινές φυλάκισης και χωρίς κανένα αποδεικτικό στοιχείο μετανάστες που διαμαρτυρήθηκαν ενάντια στην κρατική καταστολή. Για παράδειγμα, το καλοκαίρι του 2017, οι «35 της Μόριας» συνελήφθησαν βίαια και αυθαίρετα βάσει του φυλετικού τους προφίλ, μετά από μήνες κλιμακούμενων διαμαρτυριών και συλλογικής οργάνωσης στο camp της Μόριας και γενικότερα στο νησί αλλά. Στη δίκη τους, που διεξήχθη εννέα μήνες μετά τη σύλληψή τους στο Μεικτό Κακουργοδικείο της Χίου, 32 από τους 35 κρίθηκαν ένοχοι για πρόκληση επικίνδυνων σωματικών βλαβών και τιμωρήθηκαν με ποινή φυλάκισης 26 μηνών. Σε μια παρόμοια υπόθεση, αυτή των «8 της Μόριας», οι μετανάστες συνελήφθησαν αυθαίρετα μετά από μια πυρκαγιά στη Moria, τελικά αθωώθηκαν, αλλά ο ένας από τους 8 είχε προηγουμένως προφυλακιστεί για μήνες [βλ. http://legalcentrelesvos.org/2018/11/29/the-case-of-the-moria-35-a-15-month-timeline-of-injustice-and-impunity/].

Δεν θα ανεχτούμε να καταστραφούν οι ζωές έξι νέων ανθρώπων! Δεν θα αφήσουμε το κράτος και τα μέσα μαζικής ενημέρωσης να τους χρησιμοποιήσουν ως εξιλαστήρια θύματα έναντι της βαρβαρότητας και της σκληρότητας των ευρωπαϊκών πολιτικών εγκλεισμού στα σύνορα!

Απαιτούμε λευτεριά για όλους τους φυλακισμένους και κατηγορούμενους!
Αλληλεγγύη με τους 6 της Μόριας! Ο αγώνας τους είναι και δικός μας!

The EU and Greek state are guilty – Solidarity with the imprisoned after the fire in Moria!

Moria has burned to the ground. The fires that destroyed Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesvos on September 8 put the world’s spotlight on the EU’s and the Greek state’s inhuman and racist policies at the European borders. The furious reaction of the Greek state to the desperate and self-empowering resistance of people – who were forced to live and suffer in the overcrowded camp in inhuman conditions for years – is again more repression and criminalization.

The events are closely entangled with the ever-worsening politics of incarceration. Since March, the camp has been under lockdown and people were trapped without the most basic supplies. In September, the Greek government concluded a contract with a private company to transform the entire camp into a prison surrounded by double barbed wire fencing and equipped with security gates – financed by the EU. The Covid-19 pandemic has been instrumentalized to push for these plans. Instead of providing appropriate health facilities, the Greek state tried to lock up thousands of people crammed together behind barbed wire. When Corona broke out under these circumstances, the camp started to burn.

Shortly after the fire, the Greek police arbitrarily arrested six people, five of them minors, all six of whom deny participation in setting the fires.

The six were charged with arson with danger to human life, a felony charge, and participation in a criminal group, a misdemeaner charge. On 21 September, all six were also ordered to await trial in pre-trial detention. (https://www.stonisi.gr/post/11598/profylakisteoi-kai-oi-6-kathgoroymenoi-gia-emprhsmo-toy-kyt-morias-realtime)

While 2 of the 6 are registered in Greece as minors, another 3 of the 6 are in fact children, but were registered as adults by FRONTEX when they entered Greece – a common practice within the hotspot camps. They were sent to pre-trial detention despite pre-trial detention being a remedy of last resort, and the state did not present any credible evidence against them in the hearing. One  prosecutor stated that it was the first time they had seen people who are officially recognized as minors sent into pre-trial detention in Mytilene.

The court based the charges on the testimony of a single witness also living in Moria camp. He identified the six young men by providing common first names to police, and identifying them through low-quality photographs taken  for the asylum procedure.

There are a number of reasons to believe that these accusations are not credible. On the one hand, the witness is a community leader within the camp and there have been several cases before in which community leaders were pushed by the authorities to testify against alleged criminals within protest movements and were then rewarded with the possibility to leave Lesvos Island for the mainland. (https://legalcentrelesvos.org/2018/09/02/police-coerce-community-leaders-to-turn-over-individuals-responsible-for-violence-in-moria-camp/) On the other hand, the accused are all from the Hazara community (contrary to the witness), an ethnic minority from Afghanistan that is systematically discriminated and persecuted in the country.

Above all, it is not the first time that randomly selected people are taken to court and accused of alleged crimes during protest movements. (https://dm-aegean.bordermonitoring.eu/2019/02/19/ongoing-criminalization-of-refugee-protests-upcoming-trials-against-migrants-on-lesvos/)

The case of the Moria 35 (http://legalcentrelesvos.org/category/news/moria-35/) clearly shows how people have been arbitrarily arrested and convicted through a trial that broke core principals of the European Charter on Human Rights (http://legalcentrelesvos.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Observation-report-Moria-35-VERSION-COMPLETE-AVEC-LES-ANNEXES.pdf), despite the fact that many of them were not even in the camp at the time of alleged crime. The Moria 8 (https://dm-aegean.bordermonitoring.eu/2019/02/23/moria-8-declared-innocent/) were also arbitrarily arrested after protests in Moria camp. They were eventually released in February 2019 after eleven months of unjust pre-trial detention because they were clearly innocent.

The Greek state’s attempt to now blame a group of boys for the obvious failure of the Greek hotspot system is revolting. At the same time, there are attempts to criminalize supporters and NGOs. However, it is neither the people seeking protection and struggling for a better life nor supporters engaging in human rights work who are guilty for the dramatic situation in the hotspots. The disaster of the camp is the result of the European Union’s and the Greek State’s policies.

Since the EU-Turkey Deal the Hotspots on the islands have become open-air prisons, with the full political and financial support of the European Commission and EU member states. In the last months of the Covid-19 crisis, the Greek government pushed forward its plans (supported by the EU) to build closed camps at the EU external borders, so called “controlled centers”, by fencing the people in Moria behind barbed wire. Basic human rights were ignored; medical and legal support were increasingly made impossible. Even the right to asylum was suspended and people were illegally pushed back to Turkey. The new Pact on Migration only entrenches and deteriorates this system of systematic disenfranchisement, taking the system of Moria camp as blueprint for their asylum policies.

The detained are not guilty of the crimes for which they are accused! Even if anyone who lived in Moria camp did set the fire, as an act of resistance against a system of deliberate disenfranchisement and destitution, it is clear that the real arsonists are those who make the camp system possible and keep it running.

We demand the immediate release of all the imprisoned accused of setting the fire!

We demand the closure of all camps and detention centers!

Evacuate the islands!

Freedom of movement for all!

We will support the accused in any way we can in the court cases, in the prisons, by publicity…

 

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