The Trial about the torture of Afghan refugees by police officers from St. Panteleimonas ended

Press Release
Athens, 20/12/2011

The trial of the police officers from St. Panteleimonas about the case of torture ended

Today the Mixed Jury Criminal Court of Athens, which hears felonies in the first degree, sentenced two policemen (one of them already left the police force), for the sensational torture case of Afghan refugees by officers of the St. Panteleimon police station (in December 2004) to 5 years and 5 years plus 5 months respectively. The trial had started on 21.10.2011 and ended on December 20, 2011.

The two defendants (one active and one police special guard who left after completing his 5 year term) were the only ones of a police team who were referred, who – as proved during the hearing – invaded houses where Afghan refugees were living and abused the residents in order to obtain information about a fellow Afghan.
According to the indictment, in two cases (but probably in many more cases) the perpetrators led their victims in the basement garage of St. Panteleimon police station and subjected them to torture (including some well-known torture forms), as shown by the testimonies of the victims and as accepted also by the Ordinance referral.
Under the Ordinance the two police officers were referred to these two individuals for felony and distinguished form of torture and extra respectively for spontaneous bodily harm against 11 other refugees – most of them children.
We should remind that these incidents took place in December 2004. The victims, including many minors, addressed to NGOs and collectives who are involved in the protection of refugees and immigrants, to denounce the attacks and the abuse and to seek protection from the extreme police violence.

An immediate mobilization of these organizations and collectives followed, in the context of which the alleged torture and inhuman and degrading treatment suffered by the victims were registered and detected by specialized personnel of the Medical Rehabilitation Center for Torture.
The case was of specific importance because the referral of police officers to the provision of the Penal Code, which punishes torture as felony, is very rare.
During the 7 trial-meetings, 5 of the 13 Afghan victims of abuse testified, while the others have already fled to other European countries seeking protection there.
The prosecutor suggested the conversion of the charge from felony order 137 A 1 and 2 (Torture and distinguished case) to misdemeanor of the same article (137 A, § 3).

The Court, following the proposal of the Prosecutor sentenced both defendants to misdemeanor according to the provision of Article 137A of para.3 for offenses of bodily injury and damage, which constitute a breach of human dignity, against the two refugees and for unprovoked physical harm against other 5 refugees out of the group of 11 (in five cases the victims recognized the perpetrator). Furthermore, the Court imposed to the defendants for the first case the sentence of 30 months for each of the two victims and the sentence of ten months for each of the unprovoked physical damages. In total by merging the sentences the first was sentenced the penalty of 5 years and the second was sentenced 5 years and 5 months.
The Court also imposed on the defendants the additional penalty of the deprivation of political rights for 5 years and an inability to obtain public and municipal offices and positions for a 10 years period (Article 137G PC).
The two defendants were released after being granted the suspensive effect of appeals and the Court had already converted the penalty (into a monetary penalty).
The Court with this decision once again did not dare to punish the guilty with felony provision of Article 137A § 1 and 2 for the crime of torture, for which they had been accused.
The incidents of police violence particularly against refugees and immigrants continue unabated since 2004. Only a small number of them reach the offices of the support organizations and an even smaller number end up in courtrooms. And this with zero protection of the victims, with huge delays, with the loss of key evidence and the victims absent, because in most cases they leave Greece before the trial. This case was finally reached for the first time the court seven years after the incidents.
On 14.12.2012 also this sensational case will succumb to a statute of limitations, confirming once again the impunity of the guilty when they have the privilege to belong to the class of the police.

Network of Social Support of Refugees and Migrants
Greek Refugee Council
Hellenic League for Human Rights
Medical Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims
Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants