Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thessaloniki 4 trial, update day #3

Jan. 21, 2011 Occupied London

by some attendants in solidarity


The court dealt with two witnesses against Fernando, two against Kastro
and the chief of the squad that arrested Simon. The trial was suspended at
the end of the hearing on Tuesday18 Janaury as the Thessaloniki lawyers’
union would be on strike Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The court will
reconvene Monday 24 January. There is a certain pressure to get through
the remaining police witnesses plus all the defense witnesses (another 12
or so) plus the testimonies of the 3 accused present in the court. All
this has to be completed by Friday 28 January as the senior judge (of the
panel of 3 judges) is due to leave Thessaloniki that weekend to take up a
new position in Athens.

Thessaloniki 4 trial, day 3, Tuesday 18 January 2011

Update from day #3 of the Court of Appeals of our four comrades in
Thessaloniki, Greece. Police witnesses gave evidence against Fernando,
Kastro and Simon.

Background information at

Tuesday 18 January 2011, 9am, Thessaloniki Courthouse.

The Court opened and began hearing the testimony of police officer #10,
from an Athens-based riot squad. He was Fernando’s arresting officer. He
testified how his squad had arrived on Ignatia firing gas and was
immediately confronted by a group of demonstrators, who were so close it
was a “body-to-body” fight. Police officer 10 stated that he saw Fernando
throw a molotov at his team from a distance of only 2 or 3 metres, and
then fire a flare at them. Both missed. He said that they then arrested
Fernando, who they claim was carrying a rucksack on his back, in which
they found a slingshot and metal ball ammunition.

Officer #10 testified that he took Fernando and the bag to the arrest
team’s police car, and he was transferred to the preliminary investigation
team’s police station. No charges were ever brought for the slingshot, nor
for the flare. Fernando had originally been accused of throwing a number
of molotovs, but in the second trial this had been reduced to just one.
Fernando had always denied having any bag with him, and denied throwing
anything at the police officers.

When the original report by officer #10 into Fernando’s arrest was made at
the police station later that night, no mention of the bag was made in the
list of his possessions. The defence argued that there was no molotov, no
flare and no bag. Officer #10 stated that he was tired when he made his
original testimony and had simply forgotten to include mentioning the bag
(ie, the evidence!) The bag is only mentioned in statements made later
that night. The defence asked that the bag be presented to the court,
though at the moment it cannot be located.

A further witness (police officer #11) was only added to the case against
Fernando nearly 18 months later, in September 2004. Officer #11 was not
mentioned in the initial testimony of officer #10 at the time of making
this first report. He explained that he had gone to the police station
where Fernando was being held that night, but he had not given evidence as
he had been injured during the confrontations and had returned to base
where he was seen by a doctor who gave him some stitches to the wrist,
though no medical note was recorded of the injury or the treatment.

The defence pointed out that other police officers, more seriously injured
than he was, had made statements regarding arrests they had been involved
with only a day or so after the demonstration, whereas police officer 11
had waited nearly 18 months before giving evidence against Fernando.

There were numerous inconsistencies between the evidence given by officer
#10 and officer #11 in this trial, and between their evidence at the first
trial in 2008 and the current appeal trial. One or both of them had to be
mistaken, as both of them could not be right. Officer #11 was asked again
why he had not testified at the time of the arrest, and he replied that
his superior officer had thought that officer ##10′s statement would be

Officer #12 was the commander of the riot squad which arrested Simon. He
stuck to the whole story about the blue and the black rucksacks. Again, he
only gave evidence after the video and photographic evidence (in Simon’s
favour) had been widely published. He said that his squad had gathered up
abandoned rucksacks of broken and unbroken molotovs from the street and
had placed them around Simon – who, by police officer 12′s testimony, was
soaked head-to-toe in petrol – as this was the safest place for them. The
lawyer asked him to confirm that the safest place for bags of leaking
petrol bombs was next to a man soaked in petrol surrounded police, who, by
their own testimony, were still on the receiving end of molotovs and
stones being thrown at them. Some eyebrows were raised.

He was asked about Simon’s injuries. He said that he thought Simon could
have been bleeding from the head before the arrest was made, or that he
hurt the front of his head while falling (on his back!) or that perhaps a
stone had hit him at some point. Officer #12 confirmed that his riot squad
had taken Simon with them into further confrontations with
molotov-throwing demonstrators, that Simon was handcuffed and that Simon
had been made to carry the black bag of molotovs for at least 2 and maybe
3 hours. He was asked why it was too dangerous to take the blue rucksack
(allegedly full of broken molotov bottles) with them as evidence, but it
was safe to take a man soaked in petrol, handcuffed and carrying a bag
full of unbroken molotovs. All police officer #12 could say was that the
blue bag was too dangerous to transport.

The next police witness, police officer 13, was a now-retired commander of
a Thessaloniki riot squad who had arrested Kastro. He stated that he had
seen Kastro on the edges of a crowd of around 400 protesters in Aristotle
Square, and that Kastro was handed molotovs from the crowd – 5 or maybe 7
molotovs – which he then threw at the police from a distance of around 70
metres. He said that no harm could have done to police or civilians or to
property. He testified that Kastro had tried to escape through the ruins
of the ancient market area at the top of the square, and had popped up
suddenly very close to officer #13, who now – after an hour of observing
Kastro’s alleged molotov-throwing – decided to move in and arrest him with
a number of other officers.

Kastro was accused of carrying a rucksack containing 2 slingshots, metal
balls as ammunition for them, a gas mask and personal documents which
confirmed his identity. The defence pointed out that at the first trial in
2008 police officer 13 had been certain that there was a real risk of harm
to police and civilians from the molotovs allegedly thrown by Kastro, but
in this, the second trial, there was no such risk. Kastro had always
maintained that he did not carry a rucksack that day.

Officer #13 did not know what happened to the rucksack after Kastro was
taken away in a police car, nor where the bag is now. The defence spent a
long time trying to establish where officer #13 and his squad were at
various times of the day during the confrontations, pointing out the
inconsistencies between the initial testimony at the time of the arrest,
revised statements made in 2004, testimony at the the first trial in 2008
and the evidence of officer #13 in court now in January 2011. The defence
noted that in the initial arrest statements against Kastro that no
description of him, no outstanding features had been included. These
descriptions only appear in police officer #13′s 2004 testimony.

Police officer #14 also gave evidence against Kastro and followed what his
boss had said, though he added that he had seen Kastro firing screws or
other metallic objects at the police with a slingshot. There were again
numerous inconsistencies between his testimony at the first trial and at
the current trial, especially about his location at various times. One
important point made by the defence was that it seemed that the police
were saying that Kastro’s actions took place before the rally organised by
the trade unions, though the trade union speakers on the stage reported
that there were no disturbances in Aristotle Square before they had begun
to address the crowd. Timing was therefore extremely important.

In the original arrest report made against Kastro, there was no mention of
the personal documents allegedly found in the rucksack: it is these
documents which allegedly prove that the bag belonged to Kastro, but they
have not been produced in evidence, and neither has the bag itself. It is
not clear what these documents were (it was difficult to understand what
was going on as there was a lot of shouting and confusion in the court).

Kastro asked why he had not been arrested for an hour, even though he was
separated from the crowd in the square and had allegedly thrown 5, 7, 10
or more molotovs towards the police. Kastro stated that riot squads would
usually immediately arrest anyone for throwing anything at them, even
empty plastic bottles. Why had he not been arrested sooner? And if his
intention had been to fight the police, why did he not wear the gas mask,
why had he not dressed for street-fighting? Police officer #14 didn’t

Court ended at 15.05 GMT+2.

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