***URGENT. WE HAVE JUST A FEW WEEKS***
Please help Legal Centre Lesbos defend 35 refugees facing criminal trial following arbitrary arrests and police brutality after a peaceful refugee protest in Moria refugee camp.
Who are the Moria 35?
On 18th July 2017, 35 people were arbitrarily arrested during a violent police raid of Moria Detention camp, on the Greek island of Lesbos.
On the morning of 18th July, for the second day running, observers reported that hundreds of refugees of different nationalities held a peaceful protest outside the European Asylum Support Office, demanding freedom of movement for everyone trapped on the island for over six months and denouncing inhumane living conditions.
Clashes between police forces using tear gas and a handful of protesters followed. Approximately an hour after this had died down, riot police entered Moria. They violently raided the African section of the camp and arbitrarily arrested 35 people.
There is substantial evidence that during the raid, arrests and whilst in Mytilene prison, police officers exercised disproportionate and excessive use of force against refugees: Shooting tear-gas in enclosed spaces and at short range, throwing rocks, and perpetrating severe assaults, including with batons and boots. One of the 35 arrestees was hospitalised for a week. Legal Centre Lesbos initially led the legal response to the arrest, representing 34 of the 35 defendants at their first hearings and assisting eleven of them in filing official complaints regarding police violence. The extent of the police violence was such that Amnesty International released a report calling on Greek authorities to immediately investigate excessive use of force amounting to possible torture. The public prosecutor has opened an investigation into dangerous bodily harm committed by unknown police officers.
In contrast to the clear use of violence against the defendants , there seems no credible or individualised evidence against any of the 35 refugees arrested.
Many of the defendants were not even present for the peaceful protest let alone the clashes that followed. This led observers to assume the basis on which the Moria 35 were arrested was their colour and location inside the camp while raids were taking place. The fact that all 35 have been charged with an identical catalogue of criminal offences – including arson, resisting arrest, attempted assault, rioting, damage to private property and disturbing the public peace – compounds indications that arrests were arbitrary: Intended as collective punishment to intimidate refugees out of mobilising to expose the realities of structural injustice and dehumanising conditions for everyone trapped on Lesbos.
Preliminary hearings remained open for two months due to the Greek state’s failure to provide Bambara and Wolof language translators for 4 defendants. Thanks to applications made by Legal Centre Lesbos, HIAS and Lesvos Solidarity lawyers, 5 defendants have now been released with restrictive measures awaiting trial. 30 defendants have been detained after preliminary proceedings in July, and have been incarcerated in prisons in Chios and Athens awaiting trial. The trial date has yet to be set, but is likely to be in early 2018.
Who are we?
We are a team of lawyers, legally trained volunteers and interpreters from across the world who show our solidarity with refugees in Lesbos and Europe through direct advice, representation, reporting and refugee led advocacy. We are hosted in Mosaik Support Center for Refugees and Locals in Lesbos, Greece.
Our legal team is headed by two Greek lawyers who specialise in representing refugees in matters relating to asylum and criminal law. They are assisted by our international volunteers in providing these legal services.
Legal Centre Lesbos is a Restricted Fund under the auspices of Prism the Gift Fund, Registered Charity number 1099682.
Why does Legal Centre Lesbos need funds?
1. Criminal Defence Fund
The stakes are extremely high for each of the 35 defendants. Not only do the criminal charges against them carry disproportionately heavy sentences if convicted – up to 10 years in prison – but conviction could also signify exclusion from the right to international protection meaning deportation back to places these individuals risked and lost everything to flee.
As such, the work of experienced criminal defence lawyers is vital. It is for this reason that the Legal Centre Lesbos took on the case: to ensure effective legal aid and a collective defence. Legal Centre Lesbos is currently helping to coordinate the criminal defence team who will represent the Moria 35 at trial. To date this has involved providing representation during preliminary proceedings, making successful applications for restrictive measures as an alternative to pretrial detention and filing the official complaints of police violence that are now under investigation.
£3500 would cover the cost of :
- Representation for 6 of the defendants by LCL Greek lawyers
- Estimated admin and court fees associated with the proceedings
- Travel and accomodation expenses to Mytilene and Avlona
2. International Legal Observers
The Moria 35 case sets the claims of Greek state police forces against foreign nationals who will go through proceedings against them in an unknown language, in an unknown legal framework. Violence and injustice perpetrated against the thousands of people trapped on islands at the outskirts of Europe, such as Lesbos; in restricted access camps beyond the scrutiny of local populations or media, such as Moria; is already far too easily invisibilized. Racist violence against refugees perpetrated by law enforcement officials in Greece is frequently met with impunity: state actors are rarely held to account.
This highly politicised trial will therefore require international awareness and sustained political pressure to hold authorities to account, to show the innocence of the Moria 35 and to guard against injustice in proceedings. Alongside other activists and solidarity groups in Greece, the Legal Centre is building a campaign of international solidarity. As part of this, to ensure international oversight and a fair trial:
The Legal Centre needs your help to fund a team of independent, international trial observers.
£3500 would cover the cost of:
- Travel and accomodation expenses
- Translation and interpretation fees
Any surplus amounts raised will be used to pay for additional international observers or legal fees in other cases involving representation by the Legal Centre Lesbos.
Apply to act as a Trial Observer
To apply to act as a trial observer in the Moria 35 case, please send your CV and a cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org explaining why you are interested in acting as a trial observer in this case and how you will support the work of the Legal centre after the trial. Priority will be given to:
- Members of IADL/ELDH affiliated national associations
- Individuals with experience in trial observation
- Fluency in English and/or Greek
To find out more about the case and Legal Centre Lesbos