Thursday, January 20, 2011

Updates from the Court of Appeals of our four comrades in Thessaloniki, Greece (Day 2)

In June 2003, over 100 demonstrators were arrested following riots against
the European Union summit in Thessaloniki, Greece. 7 of them were remanded
to prison and began a hunger strike to demand their freedom, supported by
a worldwide solidarity campaign. In November 2003 all seven were released,
and the charges were later dropped. Years passed, and the charges were
re-instated and a series of trials took place.

The final four defendants are now facing trial in Thessaloniki, charged
with riot, causing explosions with molotovs and possession of offensive
weapons. They face betweem 5 and 8 years in jail if convicted.

What follows are the first updates that will cover the Court of Appeals of
our four comrades in Thessaloniki, day by day. Background information at">

The first day of court was Friday 14 January 2011; court continued on
Monday 17 January 2011. More updates will continue to be issued as the
case progresses.
Thessaloniki 4 trial, day #2, Monday 17 January 2011

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

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

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

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 first
statement 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.
Thessaloniki 4 trial, day #1, Friday 14 January 2011

Update from day #1 of the Court of Appeals of our four comrades in
Thessaloniki, Greece.

Friday 14 January 2011, 9am, Thessaloniki Courthouse.

The legal team of the defendants succeeded in its application to change
one of the panel of three judges (a former state prosecutor) for another,
less-biased one. Also, a fair number of the police witnesses (5-6 of the
originally about 40 in number) asked to be excused because they knew
nothing of the case.

The first prosecution witness was Police Officer Stamatis, the arresting
officer of Simon Chapman. Simon’s lawyer, Christos Bakellas, set about
demolishing the police witness testimony.

The next two prosecution witnesses (policemen) almost admitted the fact
that they planted evidence against the arrested protesters. Neither police
witness could say if forensic examination ever took place. These two
officers were credible in that they didn’t know anything of our comrades’
arrests and could only say that they stuffed various molotovs and weapons
in any available backpack to hand. Point being: any evidence found in a
backpack is compromised.

The first day of the trial adjourned around 3.30pm Greek time (GMT+2).

Background information at

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