Thessaloniki 4 trial, update days #4-5

Update from days #4-5 of the Court of Appeals of our four comrades in Thessaloniki, Greece. Final police witnesses gave evidence against Michalis and Simon, closing the prosecution case. The defence presented video showing Michalis and Simon and examined the arresting officers. On Tuesday 25 January, defence witness gave evidence for all four defendants, who then themselves gave testimony at the end of day 5. Background information at http://www.salonikisolidarity.org.uk/

For previous court reports, see:
Day 1: http://london.indymedia.org/articles/6948
Day 2: http://london.indymedia.org/articles/6957
Day 3: http://london.indymedia.org/articles/7001

Monday 24 January 2011, 9am, Thessaloniki Courthouse.

Officer #15 arrested Michalis and alleged that he was carrying a bag containing 3 molotovs, 4 masks and a powerful slingshot. He stated that he had seen Michalis throw many molotovs over a period of 30 minutes. He couldn't remember if Michalis was wearing gloves, or if he was wearing a mask. He didn't know what happened to the bag after Michalis was handed over to the arrest team.

The defence noted that it was strange that Michalis could not be seen wearing a mask in the video footage presented at the first trial, but that he had four gas masks in his bag: why would he have done that? Officer #15 either didn't know or couldn't remember the answer to a very large number of questions, and was the sole prosecution against Michalis.

Next, a defence witness was called for Fernando: they had been together in the demonstration, only losing Fernando in the clouds of tear gas. He said Fernando had not thrown anything, neither stones nor molotovs, and had not been carrying any type of rucksack with him, just a plastic carrier bag with some water. He said that in Spain, if a demonstration was becoming violent and illegal, the police would use megaphones to warn people to disperse or face the consequences. This does not happen in Greece and subsequently they did not understand the risks they were running. He gave evidence of how Fernando was a hard worker and active citizen in Spain, and that Fernando had lost his job there in order to be at this trial.

The next four police witnesses (Officers #16 - 19) were all giving evidence against Simon, and all said pretty much the same things: they could clearly identify Simon because of the orange arm padding he wore, that he threw only one molotov, that he was wearing the blue rucksack on his back and carrying the black one with his left arm. They all said they didn't beat Simon and didn't know how he had come to be injured. They had all given evidence after reviewing the video and the photos five months after the initial arrest. Officer #18 made an interesting remark: that his squad had been running around the city when they took Simon with them (who, by their own testimony, was handcuffed, soaked in petrol, carrying a bag full of molotovs). They had all admitted that there were continuing confrontations in this 2-3 hour period. Officer #19 could remember smelling petrol from one of the bags after Simon 'had fallen over', even though he was wearing a gas mask.

This was the end of the prosecution evidence.

After a break, a more entire sequence of video of Michalis was presented, and showed that, just after the point of arrest, no policeman near him was carrying the alleged rucksack, and that there were none on the street in view, as the camera makes a full 360 degree pan around the scene. Michalis' arresting officer (Officer #15) had testified in the first trial and at this trial that he had the rucksack in his hand from the arrest to the point where he placed Michalis in the arrest car. No such rucksack could be seen, and was never subsequently identified, or presented in evidence to the court.

The police witnesses against Simon were shown the video where cops are placing bags all around Simon. One sequence was interesting - a black rucksack, obviously leaking a large amount of fluid (petrol?) is placed next to Simon. None of the cops present said they were that policeman. The cops maintained that the safest place to store the bags they found in the street was all around Simon.

After this, several trolleys of large cardboard boxes containing a variety of rucksacks were wheeled into court. Police officer #6 had stated that the bags being delivered to the police station had been labeled with the arrestee's names. None of the bags had any form of label or identification on them.

The last witness of the day was for the defence of Kastro: she was a worker's union organiser who knew Kastro from his role in helping immigrant workers' organisations in Crete. She had been at the main square from 5.30 until 6.30 and testified that there were no confrontations between police or people in the square at that time. The police had testified that Kastro was throwing molotovs at them during this period. She had seen Kastro near the stage around this time. She had passed through the square the following day and had not seen any scorch marks where the police had alleged that Kastro had been throwing molotovs at them.

The day ended 14.45 GMT+2.

Tuesday 25 January 2011, 9am, Thessaloniki Courthouse.

(Day 5: for clarity, the information below has been put in a simpler order to help readers make sense of it: in reality, the day was disjointed with first one witness for one defendant, then for another defendant, then for another, then a break, then back to the first defendant etc. )

Two witnesses were called for the defence of Michalis. They had been with him on the day of the demonstration and testified that he had not been wearing a rucksack, as they could see him clearly from behind. Neither had seen him thrown anything, and had lost him in the gas clouds. Both testimonies were dealt with in 10 minutes each.

Three witnesses for Kastro were called. The first knew Kastro from Crete for many years, and testified on Kastro's personality, and that he had not taken a rucksack that morning when he left their shared flat. He was asked if it was possible that Kastro would have taken his residence permit with him and left it in a rucksack - the witness replied that Kastro did not have a residence permit. Kastro had applied for a permit in 1997 and had been rejected. This alleged document was anyway not included on the list of possession's made by the arresting officer.

Kastro's second witness was a doctor who had seen Kastro around 6pm at the Venizelos statue (not, as according to the police, in a mob chucking molotovs at them). He said that he had many discussions with Kastro at the anti-racist festival held in Thessaloniki a week before the EU demonstration and did not think he was in any way a violent person, and he didn't recall Kastro having a rucksack with him. Kastro's last witness was a professor from the university who knew Kastro from Crete, who testified that Kastro was not a violent person, but was hard-working and had perhaps been victimised due to his immigrant status. Again, these witnesses were dealt with very quickly.

There was a 2 hour sequence where documents supporting each defendant were presented to the judges, such as work and character references, letters of solidarity and concern from various social, political and human rights organisations. One interesting document was a newspaper report from Spain on how some demonstrators had successfully sued the Barcelona police for planting bags of molotovs on them at the earlier EU summit demonstrations in 2002.

Also, the reasoning for dropping the charges against each defendant - originally made in February 2004 - were read to the court. After the charges were reinstated and brought to trial in 2008, dissenting minority reports were made (ie, by those on the panel of 3 judges and 4 jurors who believed the defendants to be innocent but who had been out-voted in the deliberations) and were read out for each defendant. These minority reports outlined many of the recurring features that would arise in appeal trial: contradictions between officers, doubts about identification, lack of evidence, lack of detail, problems with initial arrest statements etc.

The last 3 witnesses called were for Simon. The first knew Simon for many years from London, and testified that the demonstration culture in the UK did not include either tear gas or the use of molotovs, and that it was not in Simon's character to act in such a way as alleged by the police. The last two had been with Simon on the demonstration up until only minutes before his arrest, and both stated that Simon had only one rucksack, a blue one with some clothes and some water. They knew this as they had all checked they had enough water before heading off. They both testified to feeling trapped in clouds of gas as the demonstration was cut up into smaller parts by charging police on all sides. Again, these witnesses were dealt with very quickly.

Then it was finally the turn of the defendants to give their evidence. Michalis' lawyer spoke on his behalf (Michalis is on remand for another offence) against the criminalisation of those who identify themselves as anarchists. All three defendants in court rejected the charges against them. It was near the end of the day and the judges and jury were clearly wilting in the afternoon sunshine pouring through the windows. After a few questions from the prosecutor and the senior judge, the defendants testimony was completed and court closed for the day. It all seemed to have ended too quickly, almost as if the defendants' evidence was irrelevant.

The next day, Wednesday 26 January 2011, would hear the prosecutor's accusations, followed by the defence lawyers' summing up. Result was expected for that afternoon...

Court ended at 15.15 GMT+2

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Link_go Solidarity for the Thessaloniki 4 - web site
Background info about the case against the remaining four defendants from the demonstrations against the European Union summit in Thessaloniki, Greece, in 2003. The final trial, where they face between 4 and 8 years in prison, will take place in January 2011.

Email Contact email: thessalonikisolidarity@gmail.com