Last year in March eight men were arrested and accused of attacking the cops and for arson during protests in Moria camp a few days before. Five of them were kept in prison for 11 months, on the mainland and on Chios.
11 months after the arrests, last week on the 22nd of February, they were finally brought to the High Court in Chios, where it took the three judges and the four person jury only an hour and a half to acquit them of all charges and declare their innocence.
Already in the pre-hearing directly after the arrests, the lack of evidence and the arbitrariness of the whole case was very obvious.
The whole accusation was only based on the testimony of a camp resident, who was in the role of community leader at that time. He claimed to have recognized all eight men, although their faces were covered and it was dark, and the air was full of smoke and teargas. Some of the accused men reported that they did not even know the community leader personally.
On the day he testified, his geographic restriction to Lesvos was lifted and he was able to leave to the mainland. Repeatedly community leaders are put under pressure by the police to pass on information and are threatened with criminal prosecution themselves, or told that it will harm their own asylum claim if they do not cooperate. Moreover, they are offered the possibility to be able to leave the prison island Lesvos if they work as informants. In this case the abuse is more than likely.
Not one of the 17 cops who testified has been able to recognize a single person. The alibis proving the absence of at least two of the accused during the protests were neither taken into account at the pre-hearings nor at the submitted objections against the detention.
The final decision, to find them innocent, is a small success and a relief for the accused. Nevertheless, five of them had to endure 11 months of imprisonment, and the criminalization of migrants and the random arrests continue.
The randomness of the arrests and the lack of of investigation shows once more, the symbolic character of the trial. It is another act of intimidation against those who try to oppose the system of detention and encampment at European Borders.
The pre-trial detention and the charges based on dubious accusations outline another case of criminalization of protests and a violent crackdown on the resistance of protestors.