02/11/2018: Π. Λαφαζάνης φιλοξενούμενος Κ. Πλεύρη!

λαφαζάνης σε επανελληνησι 2-11-2018

Οι “Σπαρτιάτες” είναι πολιτικό κόμμα που ίδρυσε το Δεκέμβριο 2017 ο Βασίλης Στίγκας πρώην Περιφερειάρχης του ΛΑ.Ο.Σ..

Η “Επανελλήνησις” είναι διαδικτυακό κανάλι των εκδόσεων “Ήλεκτρον” του Κώστα Πλεύρη. Στη σημερινή αρχειοθέτηση των εκπομπών δίπλα από εκείνη με τον Π. Λαφαζάνη είναι πολλές εκπομπές με τον Κ. Πλεύρη μεταξύ άλλων για την 21 Απριλίου 1967 και τον Ιωάννη Μεταξά  σε μια από τις οποίες ο Κ. Πλεύρης και ο παρουσιαστής Τ. Συμιγδαλάς χαιρετούν φασιστικά…

επανελληνησις 4-11-2018

 

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The killing of Zak: the astonishing violence and impunity of Greek police

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The killing of Zak: the astonishing violence and impunity of Greek police

Police were seen hitting him with a baton, kicking him, stepping on him, and finally handcuffing him – while he appeared motionless. He was pronounced dead on arrival.
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Riot Police guarding Greek parliament during demonstrations Athens Greece, 2011. Wikicommons/Ggia. Some rights reserved.

On September 21, Zak Kostopoulos, or Zackie Oh!, a queer performer and activist, was brutally killed in downtown Athens. As seen in video footage that has been made public, Zak was beaten savagely by two men, in broad daylight, in full view of onlookers.[1]

He appeared to be trapped inside a jewellery store, trying to break the glass window, in order to get out. The two men were seen to break the window front, and then kick him repeatedly onto the broken glass, as he was bleeding on the ground. He was then briefly attended to by a paramedic, who arrived at the scene, before getting up and trying to flee in panic, wielding a shard of glass from the broken window as if to keep people away, finally falling onto the tables of a coffee shop.

Police were then seen hitting him with a baton, kicking him, stepping on him, and finally handcuffing him – while he appeared motionless.[2] He was then transported by ambulance to a central Athens hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. He was then transported by ambulance to a central Athens hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Initially, most media outlets reported on the incident as a jewellery store robbery gone wrong. Though precisely what happened is still unclear, both video footage and eyewitness testimony that have since been made public have cast serious doubts on the robbery scenario. The investigation by state prosecutors is on-going, and the two men who beat Zak now face charges of “bodily harm leading to death”. The prosecutor for Arios Pagos, the Supreme Court of Greece, issued an order that the investigation should include the possibility of discriminatory motives, based on the law that prohibits racist crimes.

What is, however, more clear than the precise circumstances that led to Zak’s beating is that the conduct of police officers at the scene raises a lot of questions. To the general consternation caused by the footage showing police officers kicking and stepping on an already injured, motionless man on the ground, the most resounding answer to date has been the statement by the Chairman of the Athens Police Union, Dimosthenis Pakos, who said that “this is standard practice, whether you like it or not”.[3]

Incomplete reform

The questions raised by the apparent conduct of police officers in the case of Zak’s death are, unfortunately, far from unprecedented. Although in the decades since the restitution of democracy in 1974, the Greek Police has been reformed, we might be  justified in thinking that this process is incomplete – in the sense of a lingering lack of accountability, which has created an impenetrable culture of impunity, and even what could be called an autonomy from social control.

A vast amount of evidence that we have been gathering from several sources (including public records, media reports, personal interviews, requests for information from the police, and reports by respected NGOs) indicates that abuses of police powers in Greece occur much more frequently than is tolerable in a democratic country.

These abuses include, first and foremost, a number of unlawful killings of civilians, most of which have not been adequately addressed by either internal disciplinary proceedings or the judicial system. They also include unprovoked and excessive use of violence; ill-treatment and torture of detainees; inadequate or deficient actions at crime scenes, including the mishandling of evidence; and refusal to display police identification either when operating (for example, concealing or not wearing the identifying number on a riot-policeman’s uniform), or when so requested.

What makes the frequency and gravity of abuses even more concerning is that very few cases among the ones reported result in the police being held in some way accountable. This remains so even when the persons claiming that they have been abused have a relatively high public profile, such as journalists, or there is a great number of available witnesses (such as during a demonstration), or there is indisputable visual evidence of the incident (such as photographs or video footage).

Amnesty International has documented allegations of abuse of police powers, including ill-treatment, violence and torture, such as beatings, falanga (beating or whipping the soles of the feet), rape with a truncheon, and use of an electric shock device. This documentation is included in reports that were shared with the Greek authorities and governments.[4]

Amnesty International research

We spoke with Gavriil Sakellaridis, who heads the Greek Section of the international organisation, and asked for his view of the situation. “Amnesty International in Greece,” Sakellaridis told us, “has been systematically researching the issue of arbitrary and excessive use of force or ill-treatment by law enforcement officials. We have published three reports in the recent past, the last of which was in 2014, as well as numerous statements. Reported serious incidents, particularly against refugees and migrants, continued this year, including many allegations of ill-treatment of refugees and migrants by the coastguard in the port of Patras and the continuing practice of push-backs in Evros river. These reported incidents illustrate that the culture of impunity persists.”

“Another recent incident,” Sakellaridis went on “where audio visual material shows police misuse of force is the case of LGBTI activist Zak Kostopoulos, who died after being violently attacked by a crowd of people, after being perceived as a thief of a jewellery shop. Published testimonies of eye-witnesses in the Greek media support further the audio-visual material. Amnesty International’s research shows that systemic failings leading to impunity for law enforcement officials committing human rights violations persist. These include: the failure by the police or judicial authorities to conduct prompt, thorough, effective and impartial investigations and to bring perpetrators to justice; and the failure to guarantee the right to an effective remedy. The lack of accountability is one of the major factors that lead to the on-going human rights violations by law enforcement officials”.

Licence to kill?

The impression of less than satisfactory processes to ensure police accountability is justified if one considers even the most serious offences committed by officers. To cite only some of the most widely publicised unlawful killings by the Hellenic Police – and, therefore, ones where it would be reasonable to expect public pressure to result in justice being served:

–   in November 1980 twenty-one-year-old worker Stamatina Kanelopoulou and twenty-six-year-old law student Iakovos Koumis were beaten to death by riot police, during the march commemorating the 1973 Polytechnic uprising against the junta;

–  in November 1985, fifteen-year-old student Michalis Kaltezas was shot in the back and killed by a police officer, again after the Polytechnic commemoration march;

–  in January 1991, twenty-five-year-old Turkish refugee Suleiman Akar died from what the coroner determined were severe injuries resulting from beatings, after being detained by the police for eight days on suspicion of peddling drugs;

–  in October 1998, seventeen-year-old Serbian student Marko Bulatovic, while on a school trip to Greece, was shot at close range and killed by a police officer, after he was mistakenly identified as a pick-pocket;

–  in December 2003, twenty-two-year-old amateur footballer Iraklis Marangakis was shot in the head and killed by a police officer, after he failed to stop at a police check-point while driving;

–  in December 2008, fifteen-year-old student Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot and killed by a police officer, while on an evening out with his friends.

The officers who beat Kanellopoulou and Koumis to death were never identified. Athanasios Melistas, the officer who killed Kaltezas, was tried and sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment; the sentence was suspended, then the conviction was overturned on appeal. The officers responsible for Akar’s death were cleared of wrongdoing in an internal hearing and were not prosecuted. Kyriakos Vandoulis, the officer who killed Bulatovic, was tried and sentenced to twenty-seven months imprisonment; the sentence was suspended. Yiorgos Dimitrakakis, the officer who killed Marangakis, was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment, but on appeal his sentence was commuted to five and a half years.

The only case to date in which an officer charged with the murder of a civilian was punished to the full extent of the law has been that of Epaminondas Korkoneas, murderer of Grigoropoulos, who was sentenced to life imprisonment. The case, however, is currently being heard by the Court of Appeals, and it would perhaps be important to remember that the murder of the fifteen-year-old student was followed by massive social unrest and riots, in which Athens burned for weeks.

No evidence discovered

If convictions are infrequent and sentences lenient where there are grave charges, such as murder, then for lesser – though still very serious – cases of alleged violence, the possibility of the police being held accountable is even more doubtful.

In June 2011, journalist Manolis Kypreos was reporting on a demonstration against austerity measures introduced by the government. According to his own account, when he observed riot police launching tear-gas and attacking with batons against peaceful protesters, he protested to the commander of a riot-police platoon. The officer dismissed him. Moments later, a flash-bang grenade landed at his feet. He suffered permanent loss of his hearing, and has since been suffering from vertigo and related disabilities affecting his sense of orientation and balance.

In April 2012, Marios Lolos, a photojournalist and chairman of the Greek Union of Photojournalists at the time, suffered a skull fracture from, according to his and several bystanders’ accounts, a police baton. He was hospitalised and underwent emergency surgery. Those present also alleged that the officer who struck Lolos had turned his baton upside down, so as to strike with the handle, thus inflicting more damage. This practice has also been reported in other cases of alleged police violence.

In November 2014, Dimitris Liakos, a photojournalist, was covering a demonstration at the Athens Polytechnic, which involved clashes between students and riot police. According to his account, while he was photographing police beating students who were already face-down on the ground and handcuffed, he was himself hit on the head with a baton.

These high-profile cases involving journalists were widely publicised. They were protested by press unions and human rights groups. Internal disciplinary inquests were called for. But as time passed and the news-cycle shifted, nothing was heard about them. We requested information from the Hellenic Police on the findings of the inquests, and in each of the three cases got an identical answer: “The case was archived, as no evidence was discovered to establish the commission of a disciplinary offence by a police officer.”

So, unfortunately, it is perhaps unsurprising that we got the exact same answer from the police regarding cases that involved not journalists covering protests, but demonstrators themselves, such as Yiannis Kafkas. In May 2011, a peaceful demonstration was broken up by riot police in what the demonstrators have described as an unprovoked attack with tear-gas and police batons. Kafkas, a post-graduate student, was beaten on his body and his head. He and eyewitnesses have reported that he was hit on the head with a portable fire-extinguisher. His head injury was so severe that he fell into a coma.

Having undergone emergency surgery, he spent ten days in intensive care and another ten in the neurosurgery clinic. A hospital doctor who operated on Kafkas described his situation when he was brought in as “close to death”. Again, “the case was archived” by the police. Again, “the case was archived” by the police.

Trial and error

Of course, cases of police violence do reach the courts. But even when judges in principle accept the fact that violence has been perpetrated, in the face of overwhelming evidence in the form of photographs or video footage recording the incidents, they seem reluctant to convict or to pass sentences that might serve as any kind of deterrent.

A most striking example is the case of photojournalist Tatiana Bolari, who was punched squarely in the face by an officer of the riot police, as she was covering a demonstration in October 2011. The police were pushing the photojournalists back with their shields. When Bolari complained that they could not do their job, she was punched. Her head violently swinging back from the force of the blow, with the policeman’s hand suspended in mid air, was captured on camera by other photographers.[5] Still, the policeman was given an eight-month suspended sentence, which was reduced to three on appeal. He was acquitted of the charge of breach of duty.

In May 2008, Nikos Sakellion, a twenty-four-year-old expatriate Greek from Russia, who was in Athens on holiday, died while four police officers were attempting to arrest him. The officers maintained that he suddenly collapsed and they called an ambulance. During the autopsy, at the morgue, a bag of heroin was found in the dead man’s throat.

Dissatisfied with the police’s account of the incident, Sakellion’s father plastered posters around the area where he died, requesting information from anyone that might have witnessed the incident. An eyewitness came forward, who claimed to have seen everything from his window. He recounted that the officers beat the man violently, after having handcuffed him, mainly on the back of his head. He even filmed part of the incident with his mobile phone.

Despite eyewitness testimony being heard in court, all officers involved were acquitted. The doctor who performed an emergency tracheostomy in the ambulance testified that there was no “bag of heroin” in the victim’s throat.

On December 6, 2009, during the march commemorating the first anniversary of the murder of Alexis Grigoropoulos, a policeman from DELTA Team, a motorised police unit that has since been disbanded, was captured on video driving into the crowd.[6] Sixty-one-year old Aggeliki Koutsoumbou, a mathematics teacher and political activist, was seriously injured. She had to be hospitalised for skull, ribs and collarbone fractures, and has experienced recurring hearing and balance problems from the beating that followed. According to those present, when they tried to help her, they were also attacked and beaten by police. A doctor suffered permanent damage to his arm from the beatings, while he was trying to give her first aid. In March 2012, the state prosecutor dismissed Koutsoumbou’s lawsuit against the police. The policeman in question was tried for involuntary bodily harm, the court essentially accepting the police’s account that this was a “traffic accident”. He was given a twelve-month suspended sentence.

In June 2011, the police attacked the huge anti-austerity demonstrations that were taking place in front of the Greek Parliament, launching thousands of tear-gas canisters onto the crowds, and even inside the Syntagma metro station, where demonstrators had been trying to find refuge, as well as on the improvised infirmary, where volunteer doctors were giving first aid to the injured. We, the authors of this article, were present during the attack, as we were tasked with covering the demonstration at the time, so apart from numerous eye-witness accounts that have since been published, we can also personally attest to the brutality with which police beat demonstrators, even chasing them into apartment buildings and the streets of nearby Plaka. We left when it became absolutely impossible to breathe, and to this day we consider ourselves very lucky to have escaped unharmed.

For the incidents of June 2011, there were several different lawsuits filed against the police by members of the public, and also one filed by Alexis Tsipras, who was not Prime Minister at the time, but still the leader of a small party. The lawsuits were considered together, in light of a great volume of evidence, including photographs, video footage, and testimony from those injured in the attack. Eighteen police officers were finally brought to trial last summer. They were all acquitted.

Leniency escalating abuse

It would not be unreasonable to suppose that a failure to impose penalties that serve as a deterrent, not only exacerbates the climate of apathy towards excessive and unprovoked police violence, but also may allow a specific officer to continue to abuse citizens, having got away with illegal violence before. And facts do prove that such a supposition is justified.

Police using tear gas on protesters against US-led airstrikes in Syria, April,2018. Eurokinissi/Press Association. All rights reserved.

In December 2001, during a routine vehicle check, police officers severely beat up at least two persons. According to the account of one of the victims, Panayiotis Galotskin, whose case was eventually vindicated by the European Court of Human Rights,[7] the police suddenly turned on an acquaintance of his, a passer-by, who had simply wanted to know what all the fuss was about, and began to punch him and kick him.[8] They then burst into a nearby cafeteria, where Galotskin had meanwhile been visiting the toilet, and beat him up with a pool cue. He was subsequently hospitalised.

Galotskin was charged with attacking the officers and freeing a prisoner (his acquaintance). He was acquitted in court, but despite that fact, the officers involved never faced any consequences for their actions: they were cleared in the internal inquest, and they were acquitted in the lawsuit Galotskin filed against them.

Five years later, on November 17, 2006, after another march in memory of the Polytechnic uprising had finished and everything was quiet, Cypriot college student Avgoustinos Dimitriou was walking in Thessaloniki. Dimitriou was totally unrelated to the earlier march and was just taking a stroll. He was suddenly attacked by police officers in plain clothes who began to savagely beat him with their fists. Not knowing that the men attacking him were police, he called to uniformed officers who were standing a little further away for help. Instead of helping him, they handcuffed him, and the beating continued. The violence was prolonged and extreme, and, as it later turned out, took place under the eyes of the Director of Police in Thessaloniki, who did not stop it. The violence was prolonged and extreme, and, as it later turned out, took place under the eyes of the Director of Police in Thessaloniki, who did not stop it.

Despite the incident being captured on video,[9] leaving no doubt about the circumstances of the attack, the police officially insisted that the student had injured himself by tripping and falling into a planter box.

Dimitriou was hospitalised for eleven days and has since stated that he has been facing serious psychological problems as a result of the attack. A civil court later found in favour of Dimitriou and awarded him a 300,000 euro compensation.

Eight officers were brought to trial. One of them had also been a participant in the beating of Galotskin, five years earlier, for which he had been cleared. Despite this indication of systematic abuse, the court was lenient for yet another time. Six officers were acquitted on appeal, and two were given prison sentences of two and a half years. The court suspended the sentences.

An antifascist motorcade, “State Security” and bodily harm

The Greek Police have often been accused of racially motivated ill-treatment. Such accusations have, on occasion, crossed the country’s borders.

In May 2012, Indian university professor Shailendra Kumar Rai, who had been invited to lecture at Athens University of Economics and Business, was arrested during a police crackdown on illegal street vendors, who are mostly immigrants.

In July 2012, an American tourist, Christian Ukwuorji was detained during a police anti-immigrant “sweep operation”, and claimed to have been beaten until he lost consciousness. After that incident, the State Department published a travel warning that Americans could face discrimination by the Greek Police.

In January 2013, Korean tourist Hyun Young Jung was also detained in a “sweep operation” and maintained he was beaten both during his arrest and at the police station. Commenting for a BBC report and apparently confident that he was not saying anything problematic, a police representative at the time stated that anyone who looks foreign can be stopped.[10] A police representative at the time stated that anyone who looks foreign can be stopped.

Unfortunately, such xenophobic or racist motivations are not accidental. On the contrary, they appear to be connected to sympathies for far-right ideologies that run much deeper in the Greek Police.

On September 30, 2012, an antifascist motorcade demonstration was organised to protest the repeated racist violence against immigrants, perpetrated by fascist gangs, members or affiliates of Golden Dawn, the notorious neo-Nazi party that had just gained entry to the Greek Parliament. The leadership as well as numerous members of Golden Dawn are currently on trial, charged with constituting a “criminal organization”. The latest such incident at the time was a violent attack on the premises of the Tanzanian Community in Athens, six days earlier. A press release by the Hellenic Union for Human Rights, and other anti-racism watchdogs, described the attackers as “a group of about eighty Golden Dawn members”.[11]

According to the protesters, motorised police were following them and harassing them all along. After an altercation between the protesters and a small group of passers-by that included Golden Dawn members, the police suddenly attacked the motorcade, using flash-bang grenades and tear gas. They arrested fifteen of the demonstrators, and beat them with batons while handcuffed. A protester stated that police officers were stepping on his chest, causing him serious difficulty to breathe. Another said he was hit with a taser in his spine.

The fifteen detainees, according to their allegations, were then transported to the Attica General Police Directorate and were told to stay in a corridor outside the offices of the Directorate informally known as “State Security”. Formally the Directorate for Regime Protection, “State Security” is responsible for various surveillance operations and usually collaborates closely with the Antiterrorist Division.

They were to remain there until they gave a statement to the police, without being allowed access to a lawyer. Officers of the police unit that made the arrests were also to give statements, and they were allowed to stay in the same space. According to accounts, the “State Security” officers, who were at that point responsible for handling the detainees, then withdrew to their offices, and only emerged occasionally to tell everyone to “keep it down”.

The protesters maintain that while at the Police Headquarters they were beaten again. They claim that members of the arresting police unit, as well as a few others from the Police Special Forces that wondered in, then proceeded to put cigarettes out on them, shine flashlights and laser pointers in their eyes, spit on them, slap them, strip search them in plain view, all the while humiliating them and threatening them that they were going to kill their families. They were all denied water, and the only way to drink some was when they were allowed, after much taunting, to use the toilet. They were also denied sleep all through the night. They did not see a lawyer until the following day, almost twenty hours after their arrest.

Pictures of the detainees after their release on bail confirmed the presence of serious injuries, including a mark from a taser. The accusations against the police were widely publicised when The Guardian published a report.[12] The Minister of Public Order at the time, Nikos Dendias, denied the allegations in a speech in Parliament, and threatened the Guardian with a lawsuit, which he never filed. Forensic reports subsequently confirmed the injuries.

After a lawsuit filed by the fifteen, the Internal Affairs Division investigated the allegations, and some of the officers were positively identified. The public prosecutor decided to charge the officers with a misdemeanour charge of bodily harm. Only one officer is charged with torture, again as a misdemeanour and not a felony. The officers of “State Security” that had the detainees in custody were not charged with a crime. The lawyers of the fifteen argue that the “State Security” officers were the designated custodians and should have been charged with failing to protect the detainees.

We again requested information from the police on the findings of the internal disciplinary inquest – this time regarding the torture allegations. They replied: “After the sworn administrative review was concluded, it was tried by the General Police Director of Attica, and was by his decision archived, as no responsibility by police officers was determined, without prejudice to the provisions of paragraph 1 of article 49 of Presidential Decree 120/2008, concerning the repetition of the disciplinary trial in the case that a verdict of conviction is issued in the penal trial”. To translate, the police say that they determined no officer was responsible, but they are aware that they are required by law to reopen disciplinary proceedings if the officers are found guilty in court.

“Six years on,” Marina Daliani, a lawyer representing some of the protesters, told us “they are still waiting for their lawsuit against their torturers to be tried by a court of first instance, while the police officers involved have already been cleared of any disciplinary responsibility for the incident. Meanwhile, the ECHR continues to censure Greece for its inefficient prevention of torture and the impunity of the perpetrators. Incidents of police violence and corruption are increasing, and nobody feels surprised any more when they are publicized”.

Both the trial of the police officers and the trial of the protesters are on-going, with the next court dates upcoming in November.

The group of people that was involved in the altercation with the antifascists that night was never arrested. Two persons from the group subsequently became witnesses against the protesters, claiming they were just ordinary citizens out on a stroll, when the “anarchists” attacked them. Their statements to the police were instrumental in the state prosecution against the fifteen protesters: the charges were upgraded to include attempted grievous bodily harm, a felony. Both “ordinary citizens” are today defendants in the on-going Golden Dawn “criminal organization” trial. Both were also convicted, in another case, for arson against a bar owned by immigrants in the Agios Panteleimonas area.

Some of the fifteen protesters have also claimed that during the time they spent under arrest at Police Headquarters, the officers who tortured them were bragging about being members of Golden Dawn, and photographed them with their mobile phones in order to put their pictures on the Internet – the implication being that their faces would then be known to Golden Dawn gangs.

A family affair

The issue of the ties between Greek Police and Golden Dawn has been hotly debated ever since the neo-Nazi party’s appeal started rising in 2010 – but has been investigated, albeit by very few people, for a lot longer.[13]

After a notorious Golden Dawn attack, in 1998, which left student Dimitris Kousouris – today a professor in Germany – in a coma due to grave head injuries, the main perpetrator, Antonis Androutsopoulos – who was later convicted of attempted murder – remained a fugitive for six years. Michalis Chrysochoidis, Minister of Public Order at the time, formed a special police task force in spring 1998 with the mission of capturing Androutsopoulos, who was then Golden Dawn’s deputy leader and went by the nickname “Periandros”. Nothing came of the special task force’s efforts, and the fugitive finally surrendered on his own.

In April 2004, Ta Nea newspaper published classified documents by the special police task force, where it was claimed that the investigation into Androutsopoulos’s whereabouts was “sabotaged from within”. The documents further revealed that some elements from within the police were supplying Golden Dawn with radios and batons during popular demonstrations, in order for them to strike against “leftists and anarchists”.[14]

Ties between the police and Golden Dawn were again up for public debate in 2008, when Golden Dawn members attacked an anti-racist demonstration, stabbing protesters, and then were seen to retreat behind the lines of riot police, who protected them.[15]

After video footage emerged that showed riot police providing shelter for far-right extremists, during a demonstration in 2011, by herding them into the grounds of the Greek Parliament,[16] even the vice-chairman of the Police Employees Union of Attica, Nikos Karadimas, had to admit that “it is true that in the Police Force there are many who sympathize with the far-right”. He went on to say: “In some units they may be up to 20%”.[17] Enquiring about the sheltering of far-right extremists on parliament grounds sometime later, we requested information from the police on the results of the internal disciplinary inquest. Unsurprisingly, we were told that, “the case was archived, as no evidence was discovered to establish the commission of a disciplinary offence by a police officer”.

Particularly during the years of the Greek crisis, as Golden Dawn was becoming a law unto itself in certain areas of Athens, the police’s willingness to investigate mounting racist attacks against immigrants was questioned on many occasions.[18] In a most characteristic incident, on the day after the Golden Dawn attack on the Tanzanian Community premises that we mentioned earlier, Yianna Kourtovic, a well-known lawyer, responded to an invitation by members of the community and went to the Aghios Pandeleimonas police station, where an investigation into the previous night’s attack had begun.

According to her account, members of Golden Dawn were also present. “Everyone, both the ones who were identified and the ones doing the identifying, were taken to the station,” Kourtovic stated at the time. “But when I arrived, I found the accusers on the bench where the accused normally sit, and the accused outside the station, laughing with the police officers. In the station, while I was not there, as soon as one immigrant had filed a lawsuit, they told him he was to be detained, and pressured him to withdraw the complaint and the identification”.[19] While all this was going on, members of Golden Dawn were freely roaming the offices of the police station. More of them gathered outside the station and started shouting and threatening. Platoons of riot police then arrived, but stood around chatting with the Golden Dawn members. As Ms Kourtovic tried to leave the police station, she was harassed in the presence of the police. While all this was going on, members of Golden Dawn were freely roaming the offices of the police station.

After the murder of Pavlos Fyssas by Golden Dawn member Dimitris Roupakias, in September 2013, an investigation was launched by the Internal Affairs Division into issues of “corruption”, covering the whole of the police force, and including racially motivated and discriminatory abuses of power. The investigation resulted, a month later, in fifteen arrests of officers, ten of which were determined to have had “direct or indirect” connections to Golden Dawn, and concluded that there are “no ‘nuclei’ or (non-transparent) ‘factions’ or extra-constitutional poles in the Hellenic Police, which as a whole is a pillar of the democratic order”.[20]

Protestors marking 4th anniversary of murder of Pavlos Fyssas by a supporter of Greek ultra-right Golden Dawn party clash with anti-riot police, September, 2017. Marios Lolos/Press Associaition. All rights reserved.

Lawyers representing the victims of Golden Dawn in the on-going “criminal organisation” trial had criticised the Internal Affairs investigation, calling it a “parody”. They pointed out that just by examining media reports, the officers that had “direct or indirect connections” to Golden Dawn (through, for example, being implicated in criminal investigations, or through the police’s own public announcements) were at least three times as many. In addition, they maintained, the investigation failed to examine the systemic ties between the police and Golden Dawn, as evidenced in the implication of officers in higher positions, such as commanders of police precincts.[21]

Thanassis Kampayiannis, one of the lawyers at the trial, who is representing Egyptian fishermen attacked by Golden Dawn, told us :

“the investigation of relations between Golden Dawn and Greek Police has turned into a cover-up. At a time when the immunity enjoyed by the members of this criminal organisation has been manifestly shown at the Golden Dawn trial, there are still no penal or disciplinary responsibilities for those who are to blame.

“ The findings of the Internal Affairs investigation during the ministry of Nikos Dendias was a parody. However, the approach taken by the new government, led by SYRIZA, was also an unpleasant surprise. Not only were ministers unwilling to touch the abscess of the ties between Golden Dawn and the police, but Minister Nikos Toskas reached the point of attacking his predecessor, Nikos Dendias, in a statement saying that there was a “hunt against the police” and a “huge mistake”. The continuity between the state, the fascist deep state and Golden Dawn is still, unfortunately, the rule.”

Photoshop skills

The question why Greek governments have not been doing more to address the problem of abuse of police powers and to increase police accountability is a pressing one. Ministers responsible for the police have through the years appeared more willing to absolve the police of any wrongdoing than to seriously investigate claims of brutality – as is evidenced by the following infamous incident:

On February 1, 2013, four people were arrested for a double armed robbery. During their attempt to escape, they took a hostage with them, but they released him unharmed when their getaway van was blocked.

On the next day, the police published their photographs on its website. The photographs were very obviously and crudely altered with some image editing software. After persistent questions by journalists and a veritable storm in social media, the police published the original photos, which showed the faces of those arrested full of blood, bruises and swelling.

Three of the four claimed, through their families and lawyers, that they had been tortured during their detention. Forensic reports confirmed the injuries, and the police conducted an internal investigation, which concluded that they had resulted from the struggle during the arrest. [22]

The four did not file lawsuits, citing ideological reasons – meaning their anarchist convictions. It was largely for those convictions that along with armed robbery and other charges, they were also charged with participating in a terrorist organisation.

When the Minister of Public Order at the time, Nikos Dendias, was asked during a TV interview why the pictures had been altered, he replied: “I asked about it, too, like you, like any reasonable person, why was this done? Why were the photographs published? So that there could be an identification, so that there could be information about hide-outs. Because if there was no photoshop, so that they could resemble the image that the average person has, then the job of publishing the photographs would not have been done.” [23]

The Minister’s reply could be interpreted as saying that the pictures were altered because the faces of those arrested were so disfigured from the beatings that they were not recognizable for identification purposes. Though he was not as adamant in his denials of wrongdoing by the police as he had been in the case of the antifascist motorcade the previous year, he did repeat the police’s contention that the injuries were sustained during the arrest. He also said that the four were heavily armed terrorists, and that if terrorism was not dealt with, then there was no hope for Greece’s economic recovery.

In the event, both the Minister’s premature verdict and the internal police inquiry were disproved during the trial. The four were not convicted of terrorism, with the public prosecutor himself saying that there was “no evidence” of participation in a terrorist group, and that “a crime with an ideological or political motive does not necessarily mean terrorist action”. [24] But he also asked the court to consider the conduct of the accused during their arrest as a mitigating factor, because “the hostage related the dialogue between the accused in the van, according to which they decided not to use their weapons in order not to endanger the life of the hostage, and despite having a tactical advantage, such as heavy weapons and a hostage, they did not use it. As to the charge of resisting arrest, it would be unreasonable to accept that the accused surrendered their option for armed attack while they had the advantage, but they decided to do so while they were being arrested.”

They were all acquitted of resisting arrest. Nevertheless, no inquiry was launched – neither was the disciplinary inquest reopened – into the causes of the injuries they suffered while in custody.

The responsible Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection has through the years demonstrated little interest in questioning the procedures through which the police seem to never find any evidence of wrongdoing among their peers. This remains true to a large extent today, even though SYRIZA had been very vocal about the issue while in opposition, with one notable exception: the creation of a new “mechanism” for investigating complaints, as part of the Ombudsman’s office, which is an independent authority for mitigation in differences between citizens and public administration.

The so-called “National Mechanism for the Investigation of Incidents of Abuse”, which was launched in 2016, allows the Ombudsman to intervene in internal disciplinary proceedings in various institutions, including the police. Effectively, the Ombudsman can halt the disciplinary proceedings until they conduct their own independent investigation into allegations of abuse. They have the power to request documents and hear testimony from involved persons, which they can use to produce an independent report. Upon submission of the Ombudsman’s report, the disciplinary inquest resumes and must take it into account without diverging from it, except by providing a “specifically justified reason”. The Ombudsman also has the power to request a reevaluation of findings in such proceedings, can make recommendations to ministers, and can forward its findings to state prosecutors when they determine that there is evidence of criminal activity. Finally, in cases where the European Court of Human Rights finds Greece in violation of its obligation to conduct effective investigations, the Ombudsman has the power to request that disciplinary inquests be reopened.

A portable transceiver

In the last fifteen years, the European Court of Human Rights has found against Greece in numerous cases concerning violations of article 2 (right to life) and 3 (prohibition of torture and degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

These are, obviously, only the cases where the people affected had both the determination and the resources to see a rather difficult process through, and also where the strict ECHR standards for admissibility could be met. Depending on whether one only includes torture as legally defined or also varying degrees of degrading treatment in the more general sense ­– including conditions of detention in police stations, refusal of access to medical attention, etc.—the number of these cases ranges between thirteen and over one hundred.

The most recent such case that was decided by the ECHR, in 2018, concerned two young men – one of them a minor at the time – who were arrested for traffic violations in 2002, in separate incidents. Once taken to a police station, they were beaten up. Then, a police officer produced a device for delivering electric shocks and tortured the detainees. During the administrative inquiry that followed, the officer’s superiors decided to archive the case with respect to the allegation of using an electric shock device, and found only that he carried and used during the performance of his duties a “portable transceiver” without the prior permission of the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications. He was fined 100 euros. The officer was subsequently promoted, and left the service in 2010.

After a long series of delays and postponements, the officer was put on trial and convicted in 2011, receiving a sentence of six years imprisonment. On appeal, the sentence was reduced to five years and converted to a pecuniary penalty of five euros per day of sentence. Because the court took into consideration the officer’s financial difficulties, it decided that the amount could be paid in thirty-six instalments.

The ECHR found that the process followed by the Greek authorities failed to provide a deterrent for the officer or other agents of the state, so that they may not commit such acts in the future. It awarded 26.000 euros in moral damages to each of the two victims.[25]

The thirteen cases against Greece involving violations of articles 2 and 3, collectively known under the leading case title “Makaratzis v. Greece”,[26] were discussed in a meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, in September 2018.[27] The Committee has placed these cases under “enhanced supervision”, particularly with regard to the possibility of reopening disciplinary inquests under the new Ombudsman “mechanism”. The Ombudsman has requested the re-evaluation of one case, so far.

It is, however, crucial to note that although this new “mechanism” is an undoubtedly positive development, it is at best a means of applying pressure to relevant authorities, and not a definitive measure – which is perhaps why Gavriil Sakellaridis told us that “Amnesty International is deeply concerned that although some steps have been taken to address impunity, such as the creation of a police complaints mechanism, more needs to be done”.

Impunity

To our question on how the Ombudsman’s findings would be binding or could be enforced on the police, the Press Office replied that they are “obliged to comply”. This does little to counteract the view that the Ombudsman’s powers amount, in the final analysis, to a capability of making recommendations, as it has no power to actually enforce its decisions. It is still down to relevant authorities – whether the police disciplinary mechanism or the state prosecutors and the courts – to heed the Ombudsman’s recommendations and mend their ways.

“Greece consciously avoids as far as it can punishing officers of its security forces who are implicated in torture and other forms of ill-treatment,” says Panayote Dimitras, head of Greek Helsinki Monitor, an NGO that has represented eight out of the thirteen cases in the ECHR “Makaratzis v. Greece” bundle. “Even when there are convictions by the ECHR,” he told us, “a proper execution of the decision does not take place. This would mean, at least, a review of the disciplinary and penal decisions that have led to impunity, even if such actions would not result in new sentences for the perpetrators, due to the statute of limitations. A review, nevertheless, that would quash decisions or parts of decisions that led to impunity, combined with an apology to the victims, would be a very significant step in rectifying injustice”.

It seems to us that the Ombudsman’s powers are not on their own sufficient for this task—nor for preventing or substantially limiting the continuation of police abuses in the future. The police, in a democracy, is subject to elected political authority, and it is ultimately that authority which is responsible for addressing the issue of police abuses and the apparent “culture of impunity”.

With that in mind, we requested an official statement from the current minister, Olga Gerovassili. Her response, which was emailed to us via the ministry Press office, included a pledge that the manner in which the police operated in the Zak Kostopoulos incident will be thoroughly investigated and the affair will be resolved, as well as a lengthy exposition on the culpability of “some” of the media for how the incident was reported, and other thoughts on the “fascisisation” of society.

When we replied that this statement did not address our question, which was about police impunity, we were told by the press office that the Minister’s schedule would not allow her to draft a new statement. We replied again that we were willing to wait, and indeed allowed ten days for the Minister to find the time to reply. To the last of several reminders that this is an issue of the utmost importance for the Ministry, the press office replied for a final time that the Minister would not have the time for further comment.

Justice for Zak?

“We will ask to speak with the Minister, Ms Gerovassili,” one of the lawyers for Zak’s family, Anny Paparroussou told us. Her intention is to communicate to the Minister not only her concern over the conduct of the police at the scene of Zak’s death, but also their less than satisfactory, in her view, performance in the on-going investigation.

Characteristically, once Zak had been taken away in the ambulance, the arresting officers left the scene, without securing it. It is only after about an hour and a half that an officer, according to his own testimony to the prosecutor, was ordered to go back and secure the scene. In the meantime, the jewellery store owner, who had beaten up Zak, was still not in custody and was seen on video cleaning up.

“The investigation is not going very well,” says Paparroussou. “The video material from cameras of adjacent shops, which could help to retrace everything that happened, has not been collected by the police. We are told this matter is now closed. There does not seem to have been any active search for witnesses by the police – it is only some friends of the victim who are looking for them and are trying to convince them to come forward. Around fifteen people have testified, but there were over a hundred present. The prosecutor did ask the police to identify the people that appear in videos with Zak before the incident, and particularly one person who was with him before and is also seen during the beating. The police replied one day later, just one day, that they were unable to identify them”.

A great many people, including from the queer community, have expressed outrage online about the way Zak died and are demanding “justice for Zak”. Protests have been held in Athens and Brussels. At the massive anti-racist march in Berlin, on October 13, there was a block dedicated to Zak. Amnesty International, the Hellenic Union for Human Rights, and various NGOs have issued statements condemning the conduct of the police and calling for an investigation.

An internal disciplinary inquest is now under way. Several NGOs have petitioned the Ombudsman’s new “mechanism” to intervene – and they have pledged to do so. “They have no intelligible place in the philosophy of democracy.”

Still, given the Greek police’s track record, of which we here have documented merely a few most memorable instances, it would not be unreasonable to suspect that the officers of the law and the rule of law will continue on their separate ways.

“Part of the reason,” Mark Greif writes, “police seem at present unreformable is that they have no intelligible place in the philosophy of democracy”.[28]

In Greece at least, this certainly has a ring of truth.

Protesters opposing planned changes to Greek strike laws and rampant real estate auctions clash with police outside parliament, Athens, January 12, 2018. Angelos Tzortzinis/Press Association. All rights reserved.


[1] Video footage is available from SKAI TV here, in a news report billed as “attempted robbery”.

[2] Video footage available via Efimerida ton Syntakton, here .

[3] Statement made during live interview here on Antenna TV. Video available online (in Greek).

[4] See Amnesty International, “Police Violence in Greece. Not just ‘Isolated Incidents’,” report, 2012, available online (in English) here; “A Law Unto Themselves. A Culture of Abuse and Impunity in the Greek Police,” report, 2014, available online (in English) here.

[5] A photo by Reuters/Yannis Behrakis is available to view here.

[6] A clip from the video footage is available to view here.

[7] See “Case of Galotskin v. Greece” (Application no. 2945/07), 14.04.2010, available online (in English) here.

[8] The victim of this abuse was also vindicated by the ECHR. See “Case of Zelilof v. Greece” (Application no. 17060/03), 24.08.2007, available online (in English) here .

[9] A part of the video footage is available here and here.

[10] See Chloe Chadjimatheou, “The tourists held by Greek police as illegal migrants,” BBC News, January 10, 2013, available online here.

[11] See Hellenic Union for Human Rights, “Violent attack by Golden Dawn,” Press release, September 26, 2012, available online (in Greek) here.

[12] See Maria Margaronis, “Greek anti-fascist protesters ‘tortured by police’ after Golden Dawn clash,” The Guardian, October 9, 2012, available online here.

[13] For an introduction to the issue, see the article by the investigative team “Ios”, which over the years has revealed a lot of what we know about Golden Dawn: “The Blackshirts of the Hellenic Police” [Oi melanohitones tis ELAS], Eleftherotypia, February 10, 2008. Available online (in Greek).

[14] See Areti Athanassiou, “Police were covering for ‘Periandros’,” Ta Nea, April 17, 2004, available online (in Greek) here.

[15] “The Blackshirts of the Hellenic Police”, ibid.

[16] Part of the footage is available to view here.

[17] See Stelios Vradelis, “The intimate relations between Hellenic Police and Golden Dawn have surfaced” [Stin epifaneia oi sheseis storgis EL.AS.-Hrysis Avgis], Ta Nea, July 1, 2011, available online (in Greek) here.

[18] See Amnesty International, Public Statement, October 29, 2012, available online (in Greek) here.

[19] See “Golden Dawn Attack on Immigrants and lawyer Ioanna Kourtovic” [Epithesi Hrysavgiton se metanastes kai sti dikigoro Ioanna Kourtovic], tvxs.gr, September 27, 2012, http://bit.ly/1NLWi44

[20] The findings of the investigation are no longer available on the Hellenic Police website, but they are available (in Greek) here.

[21] The statement is available (in Greek) here.

[22] Statements by the Commander of the Internal Affairs Service of the Hellenic Police, February 8, 2013, available online (in Greek) here.

[23] Ministry of Public Order and Protection of the Citizen, Press Release, Statements by the Minister on ΜEGA Channel to journalists Dimitris Kampourakis and Yiorgos Oikonomeas, February 4, 2013, available online (in Greek) here.

[24] See Mariniki Alevizopoulou, “Do you remember the guys from Velvendo?” [Thimaste ta paidia sto Velvento?], Unfollow, September 5, 2014.

[25] See “Affaire Sidiropoulos et Papakostas c. Gréce” (Requête no 33349/10), 25.04.2018, available online (in French) here .

[26] The relevant ECHR documentation is available online (in English) here: the original decision is available (in English) here.

[27] The relevant documentation is available online (in English) here.

[28] Mark Greif, “Seeing Through Police,” Verso blog, October 6, 2017, available online here.

This is our fight: why anti-fascists should oppose Islamist extremism

We should be at the vanguard of the battle against Islamist extremism, shaping the fight in the interest of tolerance, equality and human rights.

HOPE not hate has been speaking out against Islamist extremism since 2010 and we then published our first major report, Gateway to Terror: Anjem Choudary and the al-Muhajiroun network in 2013, which exposed the violence and terrorism at the heart of the al-Muhajiroun (ALM) international network.


In 2014, we also published Cheerleading for IS: Anjem Choudary and al-Muhajiroun’s support for the Islamic State outlining how ALM was a major recruiting network for the then expanding Islamic State.

Regarding our work the Commission for Countering Extremism stated:

Despite the loud noise from the Far Right when it comes to tackling Islamist extremism, it is groups like Hope Not Hate that have carried out vital work in exposing Islamist extremists in our country, as opposed to engaging in anti-Muslim bigotry on social media. The anti-racist group did phenomenal work in identifying the scale of activism carried out by the now proscribed group Al-Muhajiroun.

During the course of our research, we attended countless Islamist extremist demonstrations at which we heard and saw vile antisemitism, homophobia and misogyny, often far worse than anything we heard on the English Defence League (EDL) demonstrations we had also been covering for years.

We could make the argument that anti-fascists should be vocal opponents of Islamist extremists because hate preachers like Anjem Choudary function as a driver of far-right extremism. This is of course true; the EDL emerged in direct opposition to ALM. But for this to be the sole reason to speak out would be tactically and, more importantly, morally wrong.

Put simply, we have to mobilise against Islamist extremists because it is the only consistent position and the only way to stay true to our core values; it is our duty as anti-fascists.

Over the last few years we have all seen the harrowing footage of Islamist fanatics sweeping through vast areas of Iraq and Syria like a sandstorm, butchering, raping and murdering their way across the region. In the wake of the fall of Mosul to Islamic State HOPE not hate went to Northern Iraq to see for ourselves the suffering and oppression, producing a magazine special titled Life on the Run from the Islamic State.

Like the stories of fascist oppression from the 20th century that we are all familiar with, we heard stories about the murder and persecution of people, not for what they had done, but because of who they are. Shia Muslims, Assyrian, Syriac, Chaldean and Armenian Christians, Yazidis, Druze, Mandeans and Shabaks have all been mercilessly put to the sword.

While the tactics (both military and propaganda) used by Islamist extremists both in the UK and abroad are markedly modern, their ideology is fundamentally rooted in a strident rejection of progressive notions of democracy, equality of gender and sexuality and freedom of religion. We have all watched in horror at the forced imposition of this barbaric values system within the Islamic State, manifesting as torture, beheading, crucifixion, and the enslavement and rape of women being conducted on a near genocidal scale.

HOPE not hate has shown how UK Islamist extremists have played a key role in recruiting European fighters to get involved in this violence abroad and how Choudary and ALM have inspired bloodshed on the streets of the UK.

The anti-fascist response 

Anti-fascists of all political backgrounds have traditionally united in condemning and fighting fascist antisemitism, racism, homophobia, sexism and totalitarianism, no matter how these far-right groups look, dress or even define themselves. In the case of Islamist extremism, this has yet to be the case.

While some anti-fascists have long opposed Islamist extremists and there are welcome signs that the left more generally in the UK are slowly waking up to this as an issue, we must raise our voices much louder and claim this as our fight. People in the communities in which HOPE not hate organise are angry about this issue and want us to speak about it. Anti-fascists should be at the vanguard of the battle against Islamist extremism, shaping the fight in the interest of tolerance, equality and human rights.

If we do not make this one of the anti-fascist issues of our age, we will be conceding the battlefield to those who seek to use this issue for the promotion of intolerance, bigotry and racism. We have already seen how the British National Party sort to exploit this issue for their own fascistic aims and how the EDL formed in response to ALM. Last year we witnessed the Football Lads Alliance emerge in response to terrorist attacks.

If we don’t speak about these issues then the only voices that concerned people will hear will be groups like these. As such, as well as raising our voices against Islamist extremists we must also challenge anyone who seeks to use this issue to attack the wider Muslim community, the vast majority of whom have no time whatsoever for the likes of Choudary.

Those who went to Spain in the 1930s to confront fascism were often called “premature anti-fascists” as they saw the dangers of not confronting evil, hatred and the threat to the international working class before most others.

The tortures, rapes and mass murders carried out by Islamic State and the terrorist attacks carried out by violent Islamists in the UK and Europe are well documented, making it rather too late to become “premature” anti-Islamists. But, if the anti-fascist movement does not wake up and unite in the face of this hatred, we risk being caught on the wrong side of history.

 

08/10/2018: Victoire historique : le ministre FPO Kickl désinvité du Groupe antiraciste de l’UE – le “cordon sanitaire démocratique” est désormais la doctrine de la Commission Européenne

Victoire historique : le ministre FPO Kickl désinvité du Groupe antiraciste de l’UE – le “cordon sanitaire démocratique” est désormais la doctrine de la Commission Européenne

Herbert Kickl désinvité du Groupe antiraciste de l’UE : l’EGAM remporte une victoire historique qui permet à la Commission Européenne de bénéficier d’une doctrine claire : il existe désormais un « cordon sanitaire démocratique » qui protège les institutions démocratiques européennes des intrusions et des perversions du FPO et de tous les partis similaires en Europe

Panayote Dimitras, Porte-parole du Greek Helsinki Monitor (Grèce) est parmi les signataires

C’est maintenant officiellement confirmé : grâce à l’action de la société civile menée par l’EGAM, le Ministre autrichien FPO de l’Intérieur Herbert Kickl a été désinvité de la prochaine réunion du « Groupe de Haut Niveau de l’UE pour combattre le racisme, la xénophobie et les autres formes d’intolérance. »

Il avait été auparavant choisi comme invité d’honneur de cette rencontre qui se tiendra les 16 et 17 octobre à Vienne.
C’était une grossière tentative du FPO d’instrumentaliser en les pervertissant les institutions démocratiques afin de servir sa stratégie de “dédiabolisation”, et du gouvernement autrichien d’utiliser sa présidence du Conseil de l’UE pour tenter de laver l’infamie que représente la présence des héritiers du nazisme en son sein.

C’est une victoire historique contre ces tentatives par le FPO et tous les autres partis similaires en Europe.

Désormais, la Commission Européenne bénéficie d’une doctrine claire : il existe un « cordon sanitaire démocratique » pour protéger les institutions démocratiques européennes de la perversion par intrusion de tels partis et de tels individus.
L’EGAM et la société civile européenne resteront vigilants pour s’assurer que cette doctrine soit toujours respectée.

La réaffirmation de la primauté des valeurs fondamentales de l’UE par la Commission Européenne à cette occasion renforce les humanistes et constitue un signal de soutien pour celles et ceux qui sont engagés au quotidien partout sur le continent pour promouvoir ces valeurs.

Contact: Benjamin Abtan
Président du Mouvement antiraciste européen – EGAM
Coordinateur du Réseau the Elie Wiesel de Parlementaires d’Europe
Email : benjamin.abtan@egam.eu / benjamin.abtan@gmail.com
Tel : +33 7 60 83 20 80

Voici la liste des personnalités et des organisations qui ont pris part a cette campagne menée par l’EGAM :

Benjamin Abtan, Président du Mouvement antiraciste européen – EGAM, Coordinateur du réseau Elie Wiesel de parlementaires d’Europe, Beate, Arno et Serge Klarsfeld, Avocats, Dirigeants des Fils et Filles de Juifs déportés de France (Allemagne et France), Lena Köhler, Présidente de l’Union des étudiants de l’Université de Vienne (Autriche), Richard J. Roberts, Prix Nobel de médecine 1993 (Royaume-Uni), Oliviero Toscani, Artiste visuel, photographe (Italie), Beni Hess et Bini Guttmann, Présidents du l’Union des étudiants juifs d’Autriche (Autriche), Nadia Gortzounian et Nicolas Tavitian, Président et Directeur de l’Union Générale des Arméniens de Bienfaisance – UGAB (Belgique), Gabriela Hrabanova, Directrice exécutive du European Grassroots Roma Organizations – ERGO (République tchèque), Balint Josa, Coordinatrice de United Againt Racism and for Intercultural Action (Hongrie), Livia Fränkel, Présidente de l’Association des rescapés de la Shoah en Suède (Suède), Willi Hejda, Président de l’Union des étudiants de l’Académie des beaux-arts de Vienne (Autriche), Johanna Ortega Ghiringhelli, Présidente de l’Union internationale de la jeunesse socialiste, Gérard Biard, Rédacteur en chef de Charlie Hebdo (France), Hilde Grammel, Présidente de la plate-forme 20 000 femmes (Autriche), Can Dündar, Journaliste (Turquie), Pascal Bruckner, Essayiste, écrivain (France), Benjamin Stora, Historien (France), Fadela Amara, Ancienne ministre (France), Svetlana Gannushkina, Membre du Board de Mémorial (Russie), Marie Darrieussecq, Ecrivaine (France), Michel Boujenah, Acteur, metteur en scène (France), Jimmy Losfeld, Président de la Fédération des associations générales d’étudiants – FAGE (France), Dominique Sopo, Président de SOS Racisme (France), Lila Le Bas, Président de l’Union nationale des étudiants de France – UNEF (France), Mario Stasi, Président de la Ligue internationale contre le racisme et l’antisémitisme – LICRA (France), Ali Bayramoglu, Auteur et commentateur politique (Turquie), David Albrich, Porte-parole de le mouvement de plate-forme de gauche Linkswende jetzt (Autriche), Sihem Habchi, Récipiendaire de du Prix Simone de Beauvoir, directrice d’Aurore, ancienne président de Ni Putes Ni Soumises (France), Boris Raonić, Président de Civic Alliance (Monténégro), Elie Chouraqui, Réalisateur, scénariste, producteur (France), Ashmet Elezovski et Irfan Martez, Présidents du National Roma Centrum (Macédoine), Ariel Goldmann, Président du Fonds social juif unifié (France), Ashmet Elezovskiet Rudolf Kawczynski, Porte-paroles du Congrès national des Roms (Allemagne), Irsan Jasharevski, Président de l’association Symbiosiz Roma (Macédoine), Oriol Valery Hrytsuk, Coordinateur des Démocrates indépendants contre les régimes autoritaires – IAIDAR (Pologne), Hristo Ivanovski, Président de l’Alliance pour les droits de l’homme (Macédoine), Oriol Lopez Badell, Coordinateur de l’Observatoire européen de la mémoire – EUROM (Espagne), Richard Giragosian, Directeur du Centre d’études régionales (Arménie), Patrice Leclerc, Maire de Gennevilliers (France), Deyan Kolev & Teodora Krumova, Présidents du Centre Amalipe pour la tolérance et le dialogue interethnique (Bulgarie), Frederico Fubini, Journaliste et auteur (Italie), Michel Mallard, Activiste culturel à La Fabrica (Italie), Baskin Oran, Militant des droits humains (Turquie), Ivo Goldstein, Professeur d’histoire à l’Université de Zagreb, ancien ambassadeur de Croatie en France (Croatie), Magdalena Czyż, Membre du Board de Open Republic Association (Pologne), Simon Clarke, Professeur associé à l’Université américaine d’Arménie (Arménie), Marian Mandache, Directeur exécutif de Romani Criss (Roumanie), Dalykali Gomez Baos, Coordonnatrice générale du processus d’organisation le peuple Rrom-Gitano de Colombie – Prorrom (Colombie), Tomas Kubilius, Porte-parole de l’Institut de surveillance des droits humains (Lituanie), Advija Ibrahimovic, Porte-parole des femmes de Srebrenica (Bosnie), Hugo Billard, Professeur d’histoire (France), Menia Goldstein et Ina Van Looy, Présidene et directrice de la CEC du Centre communautaire laïc juif CCLJ (Belgique), Armand Back, Journaliste (Luxembourg), Rithy Panh, Réalisateur, écrivain (France), Macha Fogel, Journaliste au Monde des religions (France), Cengiz Aktar, Professeur associé de sciences politiques à l’Université d’Athènes (Grèce), André Sirota, Auteur et professeur d’université (France), Ofer Bronchtein, Président du Forum international pour la paix (France), Alban Perrin, Coordinateur de la formation au Mémorial de la Shoah (France), Caroline Mecary, Avocate, Conseillère régionale (France), Roberto Romero, Conseiller régional (France), Annette Levy-Willard, Journaliste et auteure (France) , Pascal Blanchard, Historien (France), Panayote Dimitras, Porte-parole du Greek Helsinki Monitor (Grèce), Pierre Henry, Président de France Fraternités (France), Vincent Worms, Président de la Fondation Tsadik (Suisse), Alain Lempereur, Professeur à Brandeis Heller School & Harvard PON (France), Noël Mamère, Journaliste et ancien député (France), Pavlos Tsimas, journaliste à Skai TV (Grèce), Ilias Panchard, Conseiller municipal à Lausanne (Suisse), Annie Lulu, Poètesse (France, Roumanie), Charles Enderlin, Journaliste (France), René Léonian, Secrétaire général de l’Alliance biblique française (France), Aymeric Givord, Membre du conseil d’administration d’Ibuka (France), Alain Grabarz, Président de l’Hachomer Hatzair ( France), Dominique Tricaud, Avocat, ancien membre du Conseil des avocats français (France), Brigitte Stora, Auteure, documentariste, journaliste (France), Gérard Prunier, Consultant international pour l’Afrique et ses questions de sécurité (France), Marc Knobel, Historien (France), Ramazan Dyryldaev, Président du Comité kirghize des droits humains (Kirghizistan), Reyan Tuvi, Documentariste (Turquie), Guillaume Leingre, Auteur (France), Bojan Stankovic, Directeur de l’Initiative jeunesse pour les droits humains (Serbie), Ewa Grzegrzółka, Porte-parole de l’Association d’intervention judiciaire (Pologne), Hubert Heindl, APTE- Conseil international de projet droits humains et paix (Allemagne), Ales Kuslan, Directeur de l’Institut Ekvilib (Slovénie), Urša Raukar, actrice (Croatie), Yves Ternon, Historien (France), Nassim Mekeddem, Vice-président de la FAGE (France), Jacques Maire, Député (France), Henriette Asséo, Historienne (France), Christine Priotto, Maire de Dieulefit (France), Julien Dray, Conseiller régional (France), RedaDidi, Fondateur de «Graines de France» (France), François Levent, Co-Président du MRAP Nantes (France), Catherine de Wenden, Professeure à SciencePo (France), Jacky Mamou, Président du Collectif Urgence du Darfour (France), William Bourdon, Avocat (France), Patrick Klugman, Maire adjoint de Paris (France), Kendal Nezan, Directeur de l’Institut kurde de Paris (France), Guillaume Denoix de Saint Marc, Association française des victimes du terrorisme (France), Ismael Wa Muhikira, Rescapé du génocide contre les Tutsi (Rwanda), Jana Horváthová, Directrice du Musée de la culture rom de Brno (République tchèque), Dominique Attias, Avocate, ancienne vice-présidente du barreau de Paris (France), Franck Papazian, Coprésident de la Communauté arménienne en France (France), Eliott Pavia, Porte-parole du Mouvement des Jeunes socialistes (France), Sonia Bedrosian, Présidente honoraire de l’UGAB Sofia (Bulgarie), Olivier Damaisin, Député (France), Sovachana Pou, Directeur adjoint de la recherche et des publications à l’Institut cambodgien pour la coopération et la paix (CICP) (Cambodge), Daniel Sovachana, Consultant droits humains (Suisse), Renée Le Mignot, Coprésident du MRAP – Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples (France), Cyril Hennion, Président de l’Union citoyenne humaniste Jean Moulin (France), Philippe Blondin, Président du Musée juif de Belgique (Belgique), Godefroy Mokamanédé, Coordinateur adjoint du Processus de paix en République centrafricaine (République centrafricaine), Peter Meiwald, ancien député (Allemagne), Angela Scalzo, Secrétaire générale de SOS Razzismo, vice-présidente de l’EGAM (Italie), Alena Krempask, Porte-parole de l’Institut pour les droits humains (Slovaquie), Jette Møller, Présidente de SOS Racisme (Danemark), Pari Ibrahim, Fondatrice et directrice exécutive de la Fondation Free Yezidi (Pays-Bas), Sabina Achterbergh, présidente de l’Association Sinti, Roma, Travellers Netherlands (Pays-Bas), Marigona Shabiu, Porte-parole de l’Initiative des jeunes pour les droits humains (Kosovo), Paula Sawicka, Membre du Board de l’Association Open Republic (Pologne), Armen Vardanyan, Porte-parole de l’Association arméno-ukrainienne (Arménie), Yousif A. Salih, Directeur local de Kirkouk, Fondation Jiyan pour les droits humains (Kurdistan irakien), Burhan Shamo, Activiste yezidi pour les droits humains (Irak), Frédéric Encel, Professeur de géopolitique (France), Flemming Rose, Journaliste et chercheur (Danemark), Jacques Jenny, Photographe (France), Andrzej Luczak, Président de la communauté rom de Pologne (Pologne), Almoutassim Al Kilani, Coordonnateur de programme, Unité Justice et État de droit (Syrie), Bruno Gonçalves Gomes, Porte-parole de l’Association des droits humains (Portugal), Eleni Takou, Droits de l’homme 360 (Ghana), Damian Wutke, Secrétaire général de l’Association Open Republic (Pologne), Magda Czyż, Membre du Board de l’Open Republic Association (Pologne), Maximilien Lerat, Président du Mouvement des jeunes socialistes (Belgique), Seray Genc, Critique de cinéma (Turquie), Luděk Strašák, Responsable des monuments commémoratifs du musee de la culture Roms de Brno (République tchèque), Doros Polykarpou, Directeur de KISA – Action pour l’égalité, soutien, antiracisme (Chypre), Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, Rescapé du génocide contre les Tutsi, Président d’Ibuka (Rwanda), Suleman Shuker, Militant yezidi des droits humains (Irak), Donald Edward, porte-parole de la communauté nigériane en Grèce (Grèce), Yaroslav Hrytsak, Professeur à l’Université catholique ukrainienne (Ukraine), Luciana Minassian, Professeure, Université de Buenos Aires, Faculté de droit (Espagne), Margret Kiener Nellen, Conseillère nationale ( Suisse), Avtandil Mikaberidze, Directeur du Centre culturel “Caucase”, président de l’Institut géorgien à Athènes (Grèce), Nurcan Baysal, Activiste, écrivaine (Turquie), Josef Zissels, Défenseur des droits humains (Ukraine), Chrystelle Brassinne, Présidente du Conseil national de la jeunesse luxembourgeoise (CGJL) (Luxembourg), Prince Naif Dawood, Président du Conseil suprême indépendant yézidi (Allemagne), Gabriele Zimmer, Eurodéputée (Allemagne), Henry C Theriault, Président de l’Association internationale des spécialistes du génocide (Australie), Daria Mustafina, Directrice de l’Institut de partenariat et du développement durable (Ukraine), Filiz Kerestecioğlu, Député (Turquie), Martin Holler, Historien (Allemagne), Omar Mohammed, Fondateur de Mosul Eye (Irak, France), Ruben Mehrabyan, Expert auprès du Centre arménien d’études politiques et internationales (Arménie), Leon Egan, Porte-parole de l’Union irlandaise des lycéens (Irlande), Sayat Tekir, Militant du mouvement de jeunesse arménienne Nor Zartonk (Turquie), Renée Le Migno, Pierre Mairat et Jean François, Quantin, coprésidents du MRAP – Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples (France), Nour-Eddine Skiker, Présidente de l’association Jalons pour la paix (France), Marek Gumkowski, Président de l’Association Open Republic contre l’antisémitisme et la xénophobie (Pologne), Sabiha Souleiman, Présidente de l’Association des femmes roms “Elpida” (Grèce), Elisa von Joeden- Forgey, Présidente de Genocide Watch (États-Unis), Aldo Merkoci, Porte-parole de Mjaft! (Albanie), Irena Petrovic, Directrice de l’Initiative des jeunes pour les droits de l’homme (Bosnie-Herzégovine), Ivan Buljan, Coordonnateur du développement à l’initiative des jeunes pour les droits humains (Croatie), Mario Mazic, Directeur du programme Initiative des jeunes pour les droits humains (Croatie), Miroslav Broz, Porte-parole de Konexe (République tchèque), Daryl Taylor, Porte-parole de Rasmus Network (Finlande), Moavia Ahmed, Président du Forum grec pour les migrants (Grèce), Jeno Setet & Peter Bogdan, Leader et porte-parole du mouvement des droits civils des Roms We Belong Here (Hongrie), Marigona Shabiu, Directrice exécutive de l’Initiative de la jeunesse pour les droits humains (Kosovo), Valerian Mamaliga, Présidente de l’Institut moldave des droits humains (Moldavie), Natalia Tarmas, Membre du Board du Comité pour la défense de la démocratie (Pologne), Jovana Vukovic, Directrice du Centre régional pour les minorités (Serbie), Petra Hartmann, Responsable de projets à Ekvilib Institute (Slovénie), Godwyll Osei Amoako, Président de Centrum Mot Rasism (Suède), Alem Bennett, Directeur du Bureau suédois de lutte contre la discrimination (Suède), Levent Sensever, Porte-parole de Durde ! (Turquie), Andrea Haerle, Directeur exécutif de Romano Centro (Allemagne), David Assouline, Vice-président du Sénat (France), John Mann, Membre du Parlement (Royaume-Uni), Carles Campuzano i Canadés, Membre du Parlement (Espagne), Brahim Hammouche, Membre du Parlement (France), Hubert Julien-Laferrière, Membre du Parlement (France), Nicolas Turquois, Membre du Parlement (France), Monique Limon, Membre du Parlement (France), Sébastien Nadot, Membre du Parlement (France), Niedermüller Péter, Membre du Parlement (Belgique), Gregorio Cámara Villar, Membre du Parlement (Espagne), Katia Segers, Membre du Parlement (Belgique), Ruth Lister, Membre du Parlement (Royaume-Uni), Lisa Mazzone, Membre du Parlement (Suisse), Paul Molac, Membre du Parlement (France), Said Abdu, Membre du Parlement (Suède), Ana Gomes, Membre du Parlement européen (Portugal), Boris Zala , Membre du Parlement européen (Slovaquie), Milorad Pupovac, Membre du Parlement européen (Croatie), Julie Ward, Membre du Parlement européen (Royaume-Uni)

1/10/2018: Αθώωση ταξιτζή για μισαναπηρισμό παρά καταδικαστική πρόταση εθνικής εισαγγελέα για ρατσιστικά εγκλήματα!

pinakio a trimeles diki via kata anapirou 1-10-2018

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Ανδρέας Κουζέλης

Τη Δευτέρα 1 Οκτωβρίου 2018, έγινε στο Α’ Τριμελές Πλημμελειοδικείο Αθηνών η πρώτη στην Ελλάδα δίκη για μισαναπηρική (ρατσιστική κατά ΑμεΑ) και μάλιστα βίαιη συμπεριφορά. Δικαζόταν ο οδηγός ταξί Παναγιώτης Δημητρίου με την κατηγορία πως, στις 25 Μαΐου 2015, όταν κλήθηκε να παραλάβει πελάτη έξω από το Συνεργατικό Καφενείο Σαΐτες στη Νέα Σμύρνη, όταν διαπίστωσε πως ο επιβάτης, που ήταν ο κοινωνιολόγος, συγγραφέας και ακτιβιστής Ανδρέας Κουζέλης, είχε σπαστική τετραπληγία, αρνήθηκε να τον πάρει και δημιούργησε επεισόδιο με συμπεριφορά που χαρακτηρίστηκε στο κατηγορητήριο ως “παράνομη βία με αφορμή την αναπηρία του παθόντος”. Μετά από δίκη που κράτησε 3,5 ώρες, η Εισαγγελέας Καλλιόπη Θεολογίτου πρότεινε να κηρυχθεί ο κατηγορούμενος ένοχος κατά το κατηγορητήριο. Ένα τέταρτο της ώρας αργότερα, το δικαστήριο επέστρεψε από τη διάσκεψη και η Πρόεδρος Αποστολία Τσιαλάνη είπε μονολεκτικά “αθώος:” η απόφαση είχε ληφθεί προφανώς ομόφωνα από την Πρόεδρο και τους άλλους δύο δικαστές Τριαντάφυλλο Αλβίζο και Βασιλική Νικητοπούλου.

Έχει μεγάλη σημασία πως η Εισαγγελέας Καλλιόπη Θεολογίτου δεν ήταν μια οποιαδήποτε αλλά αυτή που η Κυβέρνηση και η Εισαγγελία του Αρείου Πάγου έχουν επιλέξει ως πρόσωπο επαφής του Οργανισμού για την Ασφάλεια και τη Συνεργασία στην Ευρώπη (ΟΑΣΕ) στην Ελλάδα για τα ρατσιστικά εγκλήματα,” δηλαδή ως τη σημαντικότερη ή/και ειδικότερη εισαγγελική λειτουργό σε όλη τη χώρα για τα ρατσιστικά εγκλήματα ώστε να έχει την επαφή  της Ελλάδας με τον ΟΑΣΕ. Και μόνο για αυτό, η δικαστική απόφαση αποτελεί πλήγμα για το κράτος δικαίου και για το κύρος της εισαγγελικής λειτουργού και πρέπει επιτακτικά να ασκηθεί έφεση ώστε να ξαναγίνει η δίκη στο Εφετείο.

Το Ελληνικό Παρατηρητήριο των Συμφωνιών του Ελσίνκι (ΕΠΣΕ) παρακολούθησε τη δίκη, σε αντίθεση με ΟΛΑ τα ΜΜΕ που “διακρίθηκαν” για άλλη μια φορά για την περιφρόνησή τους προς ιστορικές δίκες που όμως δεν αφορούν “μοδάτες” ομάδες του πληθυσμού.

Ο πολιτικώς ενάγων Ανδρέας Κουζέλης και οι αυτόπτες μάρτυρες, ο παραολυμπιακός αθλητής Βαγγέλης Καρέλης, η εργαζόμενη στις Σαΐτες Μαριάννα Κανελλοπούλου και  η δραματοπαραγωγός Χαρά Αλεξάκη κατέθεσαν πως, όταν ο ταξιτζής (που είχε έρθει μετά από κλήση στην Taxiplon) αντιλήφθηκε πως ο πελάτης είχε σπαστική τετραπληγία, άρχισε να λέει δυνατά “αυτό, πάρτε το από εδώ,” “δεν το παίρνω αυτό,” [το ουδέτερο δεν είναι τυπογραφικό λάθος, αλλά ακριβώς η πιο ακραία ένδειξη ρατσιστικής συμπεριφοράς], “δεν μου είπατε πως πρόκειται για ανάπηρο” βγήκε από το ταξί και άρχισε να χτυπάει δυνατά το καπό του ταξί με τρόπο που και οι τέσσερις κατέθεσαν πως ήταν και απειλητικός. Ο Ανδρέας Κουζέλης ζήτησε τα στοιχεία του τα οποία ο οδηγός δεν έδωσε και στη συνέχεια βγήκε από το ταξί, με αποτέλεσμα ο οδηγός να ξαναμπεί στο ταξί και να φύγει με ταχύτητα. Ο Ανδρέας Κουζέλης στη συνέχεια πήρε ένα άλλο περαστικό ταξί χωρίς πρόβλημα. Τις επόμενες ημέρες κατήγγειλε το συμβάν στο Τμήμα Δίωξης Ρατσιστικού Εγκλήματος ενώ η Taxiplon ζήτησε δημόσια συγγνώμη και γνωστοποίησε πως θα διέκοπτε τη συνεργασίας της με αυτόν τον ταξιτζή:

“Η «Εφ.Συν.» επικοινώνησε με την υπηρεσία ταξί Taxiplon. Η νομική σύμβουλος της εταιρείας δήλωσε ότι ο οδηγός δεν εκπροσωπεί σε καμία περίπτωση την εταιρεία και ότι πρόκειται για απλό συνεργάτη. «Η εταιρεία θα προχωρήσει στη διαγραφή του οδηγού, καθώς έχουμε πολύ υψηλά στάνταρ σε ό,τι αφορά τους συνεργάτες μας. Σε κάθε περίπτωση, καταδικάζουμε τέτοιες συμπεριφορές. Είναι γνωστό άλλωστε ότι βρισκόμαστε κοντά στα ΑμεΑ. Η εταιρεία απολογείται για την όποια ταλαιπωρία υπέστη ο κ. Κουζέλης», μας είπε η νομική σύμβουλος.

Ο κατηγορούμενος είχε ένα μάρτυρα υπεράσπισης, συνάδελφό του ταξιτζή, που δήλωσε πως άκουσε όλο το συμβάν γιατί ο κατηγορούμενος είχε ανοιχτό το κινητό του τηλέφωνο κατά τη διάρκειά του! Η εκδοχή τους ήταν πως ο οδηγός θεώρησε τον Ανδρέα Κουζέλη μεθυσμένο και πως όταν ζήτησε τον προορισμό του όχι από τον ίδιο αλλά από φίλο του που τον είχε συνοδεύσει μέχρι το ταξί, ρωτώντας “πού θα τον πάω,” ο Ανδρέας Κουζέλης άρχισε να τον βρίζει “χρυσαυγίτη, φασίστα, ταρίφα” γεγονός που τον οδήγησε να βγει για λίγο από το αυτοκίνητό του, διάστημα κατά το οποίο ο Ανδρέας Κουζέλης βγήκε και αυτός. Ο ταξιτζής σήμερα εργάζεται σε σωματείο ραδιοταξί, ο πρόεδρος του οποίου κατέθεσε για τις διαδικασίες (και το ποιόν του) λέγοντας μεταξύ των άλλων πως όταν υπάρχει παρόμοιο συμβάν που οδηγεί σε ακύρωση της μίσθωσης ο οδηγός οφείλει να ενημερώσει την εταιρεία ή το σωματείο, κάτι που όμως ο κατηγορούμενος δεν είχε κάνει.

Στην αγόρευσή της, η Εισαγγελέας ανέλυσε πως υπάρχει, με βάση και νομολογία του Αρείου Πάγου, απειλή βίας ακόμα και σε περίπτωση προπηλακισμού με πράξεις που κατ’ αρχή δεν είναι παράνομες, αλλά είναι κατακριτέες ή ανήθικες που εκλαμβάνονται ως απειλή. Στη συγκεκριμένη περίπτωση, η στάση του σώματος, οι λέξεις που χρησιμοποίησε και οι κινήσεις που έκανε ο ταξιτζής αποτελούν προπηλακισμό με πιθανολόγηση άσκησης σωματικής βίας. Πρόσθεσε πως ο πολιτικώς ενάγων δεν ήταν μεθυσμένος, αλλά έχει εγγενή σοβαρή πάθηση που εξηγούσε τη στάση του. Όπως και ότι ο οδηγός δεν έκανε καμιά αναφορά στην εταιρεία του ως όφειλε. Τη δε τηλεφωνική συνομιλία του με το συνάδελφό του την ώρα του συμβάντος τη χαρακτήρισε αναξιόπιστη. Κατέληξε δε πως για αυτό πληρούται η αντικειμενική υπόσταση του εγκλήματος, όπως και η υποκειμενική υπόσταση του εγκλήματος λόγω των χαρακτηρισμών του οδηγού προς τον πολιτικώς ενάγοντα, που συνιστούν και αντικειμενική υπόσταση του ρατσιστικού εγκλήματος του άρθρου 81Α ΠΚ. Για αυτό ζήτησε την ενοχή του κατά το κατηγορητήριο.

Ο συνήγορος πολιτικής αγωγής Παναγιώτης Ρέλλας συντάχθηκε με την εισαγγελική πρόταση και, επειδή είχε ακουστεί πως ο κατηγορούμενος έχει ευαισθησία έναντι των ΑμεΑ επειδή οδηγεί οχήματα που μεταφέρουν μαθητές στο Γυμνάσιο Κωφών και Βαρήκοων , τόνισε όπως και η Εισαγγελέας πριν από αυτόν, πως αυτό το κάνει για βιοπορισμό και όχι από ευαισθησία.

Από την αγόρευση του δικηγόρου υπεράσπισης Ευάγγελου Ναούμη αξιοσημείωτη ήταν η χρήση φράσεων που ακούγονται μόνο από χρυσαυγίτες και λοιπούς ακροδεξιούς ρατσιστές: “ο χειρότερος ρατσισμός είναι ο ρατσισμός των μειονοτήτων,” “φασισμός είναι να προτάσσεις την ιδιαιτερότητά σου έναντι των άλλων.”  Και τα είπε αυτά ενώ σε όλη τη δίκη κατήγγειλε πως ο πελάτης του είχε χακακτηριστεί τότε χρυσαυγίτης…  Όπως αξιοσημείωτο ήταν πως ο δικηγόρος υπεράπσιης στο τέλος δεν ζήτησε, ως συνήθως, την απαλλαγή ή αθώωση του κατηγορούμενου, αλλά μόνο τη διαπίστωση από το δικαστήριο “εύλογων αμφιβολιών.”

Κι’ όμως, το Δικαστήριο τελικά τον κήρυξε “αθώο,” χωρίς αμφιβολίες και χωρίς να πει έστω μια φράση εξήγησης μιας απόφασης που ήταν σε αντίθεση με την εισαγγελική πρόταση για μια δίκη που διάρκεσε τόσο πολύ και είχε αναμφίβολο γενικότερο ενδιαφέρον.  Το ακροατήριο, περιλαμβανόμενου του κατηγορούμενου και του δικηγόρου του,  έμεινε άναυδο επί τουλάχιστον μισό λεπτό, γεγονός που ανάγκασε την Πρόεδρο να ζητήσει από τον κατηγορούμενο να φύγει από το εδώλιο…



Σχετικά δημοσιεύματα από τον Ιούνιο 2015

Ρατσιστική ταρίφα σε τετραπληγικό

“Κατέβα ρε, δεν θέλω ανάπηρους στο ταξί μου”


 

Freedom of speech isn’t freedom from consequences

Montana view icon

The first and probably least understood rule about the First Amendment is that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.

That is, you can say whatever you want, but there’s no guarantee that there won’t be consequences. A bank robber can’t say, “Give me all your cash,” and claim it’s protected by the First Amendment as freedom of speech.

So to hear attorney Marc Randazza say of his neo-Nazi publisher client, Andrew Anglin, that he had a right to call for a troll storm of Montana resident Tanya Gersh and other Jewish residents of Whitefish, well, that’s a desperate attempt by a lawyer who should have a better understanding of the First Amendment.

No one is arguing that Anglin didn’t have a right to say what he wanted about Gersh or the Jewish faith. Under that same freedom, he may have even had the right to call for a trollstorm — an online call to harass, intimidate and commit violence against a person.

But speech has consequences. Just like inciting a lyching or a riot can be a crime, so to can fomenting action against someone that would result in a loss, whether physical or financial.

We suppose that Randazza cannot possibly justify his client’s repugnant views, so he must instead attempt to find some legal toe-hold to defend a client whose sole purpose seems to be sowing racial hatred. And, we also respect that everyone — even neo-Nazis — should be afforded legal counsel if charged with a crime. If our legal system means anything, it must be that all parties have adequate counsel for justice to truly be carried out effectively.

However, Randazza’s argument seems to be a repetition of the most common misperception of First Amendment law — that the First Amendment absolves anyone from the power of their ideas.

True enough, if one of an Anglin’s unhinged readers who visit the hate site, The Daily Stormer, act because of his words, they too must be held responsible for their actions as an individual. In other words, neither Anglin nor his overactive readers should get a free-pass because of free speech.

But Anglin and his site wasn’t just merely expressing an opinion, it was urging action. It was calling for a trollstorm where anonymous people threatened and intimidated her family because of her religion.

This call-to-action, not merely an opinion, is what changes the argument here. To portray this as a matter of protected speech is like calling an orange a carrot just because both are colored the same. They’re two very different things.

Randazza is right on one point, though.

“(The First Amendment) does not require politeness or kindness,” he wrote.

And while we condemn in harshest possible terms Anglin’s world views and recognize his words as juiced up, recycled old anti-Semitism, the First Amendment does not require thoughtful, nice or even courteous discourse.

Our words have power. And we have the ability to use them because we are free. That’s a pretty powerful combination — living in a place where everyone has a voice and can chose what they mean. Yet, that also means that there has to be some sort of responsibility; some sort of check.

We have seen the courts reaffirm that principle time and time again. You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater because those words have actions that could lead to harm. You also can use the Internet or other electronic communication to urge harm, for example, suicide. We’ve seen the courts understand that in several tragic recent cases.

While you might expect a newspaper to stand solidly on the unpopular ground of backing what Anglin did as a free speech, you’ll find no defense of the neo-Nazi here.

If it were just a horrible opinion he’d expressed, we would urge readers to treat Anglin as no different than any other online troll — ignore them, because their only legitimacy is often the attention they find by the outraged decent folk.

But there’s a different between a thought and a call-to-action.

Anglin and his lawyer confuse speech and thought with action. They would like you to believe they’re upholding some kind of American principle. Yet, a freedom to do whatever you want with consequence is exactly what those who wrote the constitutional freedoms worried about — an unrestrained and unfettered power without any check, balance or responsibility.

— The Billings Gazette