Category Archives: Smuggling

[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

 

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.

[Press release from 26.4.2021] Scandalous sentencing of a Syrian refugee on the Greek island of Lesvos to 52 years imprisonment +++ Trial observers strongly criticise the criminalisation of flight

Press release from the initiatives “You Cant Evict Solidarity”, Christian Peacemaker Teams – Aegean Migrant Solidarity and borderline-europe, 26 April 2021
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Scandalous sentencing of a Syrian refugee on the Greek island of Lesvos to 52 years imprisonment +++ Trial observers strongly criticise the criminalisation of flight
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On Friday 23 April 2021, the trial of K. S., a young man who fled Syria, took place in Mytilini on the Greek island of Lesvos. He was sentenced to 52 years imprisonment for “illegal entry” and “facilitating illegal entry”. Trial observers from the initiatives “You Cant Evict Solidarity”, Christian Peacemaker Teams – Aegean Migrant Solidarity and borderline-europe consider the verdict a scandal. They criticise the unfair trial and once again demand the immediate release of the accused.
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As he described in the trial, the defendant K. S. fled with his family from the civil war in Syria to Turkey. There, he refused to participate in the Turkish military operation in the civil war in Libya and was subsequently imprisoned and tortured. He managed to flee further to the EU with his wife and three small children. When the family reached the Greek island of Chios in early March 2020 they were denied the right to asylum for one month, like all people arriving in Greece at that time. The background, which was also described in testimony from CPT – Aegean Migrant Solidarity at the trial, is that the Greek state had unlawfully suspended the right to asylum as part of a political dispute between Turkey and the EU, and systematically brought criminal charges of “illegal entry” against migrants seeking protection in Europe. In addition, upon arrival, K.S. was falsely accused of steering the boat in which he and his family arrived on Chios and additionally charged with “facilitating illegal entry”(human smuggling) and “provoking a shipwreck”(endangering life).
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A trial observer explains about the background of the charges: “The filing of such charges against migrants arriving on the Greek islands, allegedly identified as boat drivers, has been a systematic approach of the Greek state for several years. It is based on the absurd notion that anyone who drives an inflatable boat carrying people seeking protection is a smuggler. Often the accused are themselves protection seekers and have been coerced into driving the boat. In practice, prosecuting “smugglers” means accusing someone from an arriving inflatable boat of driving the boat, whether they were or not. They are usually arrested on the spot without sufficient evidence and held in pre-trial detention for months. When their case finally comes to trial, their trials last an average of only 38 minutes, and they are sentenced to long prison terms, in some cases over 100 years in prison with very large fines. For the charges brought against K.S., the average sentence is 93 years. These proceedings are not conducted fairly or according to the rule of law. We know of hundreds of such cases of people in Greek prisons on these charges, as a report by CPT – Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe and Deportation Monitoring Aegean shows (1). Most recently, last year, among others, Amir and Razouli, two refugees, were sentenced to 50 years imprisonment in such a trial and are now in Greek prison awaiting their appeal hearing in March 2022 (2).”
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After more than a year of pre-trial detention and after the trial had been postponed at short notice until Friday, 23 April 2021, the defendant K.S. was sentenced in just a few hours and in camera for “unauthorized entry” and “facilitating illegal entry” to 52 years imprisonment. He was sentenced to 10 years plus one year for each person on the boat. In addition, the court fined him 242,000 euros. This high sentence was imposed even though he was acquitted of the charges of “endangering human life” and “disobedience”. 
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K.S. was judged not on his guilt for the particular crimes for which he was accused, but as a proxy to condemn migration to Europe in general. K.S. was subject to derogatory statements by the court and jury, being questioned about his Muslim faith and asked why he did not stay in Syria to fight for his country. The trial was riddled with major irregularities. For example, the prosecution’s case was based on contradictory lists of the number of people on the boat. The prosecution’s main witness, a coastguard officer, testified in great detail, but he made no statement on the important question of whether he had seen the defendant driving the boat. In turn, the defendant’s wife testified as a witness and confirmed that he had not driven the boat. When the coastguard officer stated at the end of his testimony that K.S. should be released because he was fleeing a warzone, the prosecutor replied that he could have stayed in Turkey – unbelievable, as K.S. had been imprisoned and tortured there. 
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His lawyers from the Legal Center Lesvos appealed immediately after the verdict. Until then, K.S. must spend the time until the appeal hearing (presumably in about a year) back in the infamous Korydallos prison on the Greek mainland. 
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Johannes Körner from the campaign “You cant evict Solidarity” said about the verdict: 
    
“We as well as the initiatives CPT – Aegean Migrant Solidarity and borderline.europe will continue to support the accused in solidarity. We call on Greece and the European Union to immediately end the arbitrary detention of migrants and for the acquittal and immediate release of the accused. In addition, the pending comparable cases must be dropped, or trials must take place elsewhere than the biased court of Mytiline.”
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A member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams – Aegean Migrant Solidarity added:
    
“Migrants seeking sanctuary in Europe who are accused of the crime of facilitating illegal entry cannot expect to receive a fair trial in Mytilene court. K.S. was convicted with no evidence positively identifying him. This is indicative of a justice system catering to the vocal section of local society seeking a scapegoat for migration to the island.”
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Press contact:
Johannes Körner: cantevictsolidarity@riseup.net
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[Greece] Incarcerating the Marginalized The Fight Against Alleged ›Smugglers‹ on the Greek Hotspot Islands

Parallel to our solidarity work for Amir and Razouli who are accused for “smuggling” in Greece we publish this recherche report of bordermonitoring.eu about the criminalisation of “smuggling” in Greece.

“The following report outlines the system of punishment and incarceration of
migrants who are accused of human smuggling at the EU-external border in
the Aegean. It bears witness to the fates of people who have been sentenced
to life long imprisonment in Greece. Some of them were not aware of having
committed a felony crime by driving a boat with asylum seekers from Greece
to Turkey; others were only crossing the border to seek asylum in the European Union themselves.

Upon arrival, they were arrested, often beaten, and held for months in pre-trial detention, until they were convicted in a court procedure violating basic standards of fairness. The harsh criminalization described in this report cannot be understood outside of the broader framework of the anti-smuggling policies of the European border regime, which will
be analysed in this report alongside narratives on human smuggling, as well as the evolution of anti-smuggling legislation within the European Union.”

The full report can be found here.