Thessaloniki 4 trial, day #2

Update from day #2 of the Court of Appeals of our four comrades in Thessaloniki, Greece.

The day would be spent examining more police prosecution witnesses, including some policemen who had been involved in the arrest of Simon Chapman, and others who had arrested other demonstrators (not the Thessaloniki 4).

The first 5 policemen each said they nothing of the case at trial – they had all arrested other people (not the current defendants) at the 21 June demonstration. They were examined on what is the normal procedure for taking an arrested person from the street to the police station for interrogation, and what would be done with anything found in their possession.

In each case, the idea was that where possible the arresting officer would take the arrested person and any items found in their possession in a police car and then to a police station, where the arresting officer would give their initial testimony and file a report of the arrestee’s possessions.

In some cases where the arresting officer could not take the arrestee into the police station themselves, they would hand the person and their possessions over to an arrest team for delivery to a police station, and then give their testimony and sign documents later.

Police witness #6 had a slightly different role, as he was guarding the pre-interrogation team. However, he testified that lists of the names of the arrestees, their arresting officers and their possessions were made. Labels were improvised and stapled to the various rucksacks being brought in, which were stored securely. Arresting officers were not always present, but their names were logged.

Police witness #7 was a more challenging witness. He was part of the Athens-based riot squad which arrested Simon Chapman. He testified with absolute certainty, as he claimed (and same as all other members of the squad that arrested Simon) that Simon had thrown a molotov at his squad, that he had turned to run and had somehow slipped and fallen on to his back, thereby smashing a number of molotovs in the blue rucksack on his back.

Simon is accused to have been holding the black rucksack – containing 7 molotovs and two hammers – in his left hand, though when he fell and hurt himself he somehow managed not to break any in the black bag. As Simon was now covered in petrol from the broken bottles from the blue bag, the police thought it too dangerous to take it with them. They were ordered to move on to another position in Thessaloniki and took Simon with them for at least two hours of further confrontations with demonstrators, as there was no way to get him to police car for transfer to interrogation at a police station.

Police witness #7 was certain that no officers had hit Simon: any blood on him must have been come from an injury caused either by falling over, or perhaps by being hit by a stone thrown for other demonstrators, or maybe Simon fell on his face and then fell on his back. Simon’s defense lawyer, Christos Bakelas, pointed out that none of this information appeared in this witness’ testimony until after himself and the arresting riot squad had reviewed the rather embarrassing video tapes in November 2003.

Police witness #7 stated that his squad had moved many bags and weapons found in the street, so that they could not be used by any counter-attacking demonstrators. The earlier police witnesses (1-5) had all been asked if they had moved items from the street themselves, and they had all said they had not, as that was the job of another police team (see the report from day 1 of the trial).

Police witness #7 is the cop in the live TV footage who walks up to the TV camera and presents the contents of a black rucksack to be filmed. He presents a hammer to the film crew and puts it in the black bag, and then carries it over to where Simon is sitting and places it next to him.

Police witness #8 was questioned next, again largely about the arrest and custody procedure, as outlined for police witnesses 1-5. He was questioned on how or why the blue bag was never logged at the time of the arrest or when Simon was taken in to the police station. He said conditions were difficult that day.

Police witness #9 was the last for the day and was also part of the Athens riot squad that arrested Simon. He repeated all the same story about how they could supposedly “clearly identify” Simon as the person who threw the molotov at them, how he fell on his back, how they didn’t know where all that blood came from, how he was most definitely not beaten. This was a little strange because this policeman was the one in the Reuters photo putting his boot into Simon’s face.

This witness said he did not kick Simon, that he was just holding him still with his foot because his hands were full (of tear gas canisters). He was offended at all the outrageous lies reported in the media about Simon, as police were wholly concerned for his safety. He admitted reviewing the videos with the rest of the team before making his revised statements in November 2003.

One of the last questions for this police witness was one of the most interesting: witness #9 said that there was a strong odour of petrol coming from the blue bag. He was asked if he took his gas mask off at any point during the day. He had not. So the question was pursued: if police witness #9 had his gas mask on at the time, how could he have detected the odour of petrol, given that a gas mask should filter out gases such as petrol fumes? No satisfactory answer was given.

Court ended at 15.12 GMT+2.