legalcentre.org | 10 December 2022
Delayed “justice” in appeal trial: Amir Zahiri and Akif Razuli will finally be freed!
Yesterday, 8 December 2022, the twice postponed appeal trial of Amir Zahiri and Akif Razuli took place in Mytilini, Greece. At the end the three judge Appeal Court acquitted Akif, but found Amir guilty of “boat driving” and sentenced him to 8 years in prison. Compared to the first instance decision, his sentence was substantially reduced, which means that he is eligible for early release on parole. The initiatives Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, Borderline-Εurope e.V., You can’t evict Solidarity and Deportation Monitoring Aegean observed the case of the two on Lesvos and welcome their upcoming release from prison.
After a day of suspense as to whether the trial would take place or again be postponed, the trial finally started late on Thursday afternoon. Four witnesses testified for the defendants, who were represented by lawyers from the Legal Center Lesvos and Human Rights Legal Project Samos.
At the close of the trial, the prosecutor proposed that Akif be found not guilty, due to the lack of any evidence that he was driving the boat, and the judges agreed.
Despite doubt being raised as to Amir’s guilt, the Court found Amir guilty of facilitating illegalised entry – i.e. “boat driving”. They rejected the argument that Amir was forced to drive the boat out of necessity to save the life of his family and others on the boat – a legal reason for acquittal. However, the court did reduce his sentence to 8 years based on mitigating circumstances, so he now can apply for early release, given his time earned working and studying while in prison. This result, while insufficient, is welcome news for his family.
Although there was never credible evidence against them, both defendants have now been in prison for almost 3 years.
The Coast Guard witness – the State’s sole witness against Akif and Amir – failed to appear once again to testify in court yesterday. In their scheduled appeal trial in April of 2022, said witness didn’t show up, which was used as an excuse to postpone the trial.
This is unfortunately a common occurance in these “boat driving” cases, where the Coast Guard or police are the only witnesses against the accused. Just this Monday, in the case of A.B., the Mytilene Court postponed A.B.’s trial until May 2023, because the Coast Guard witness did not show up for trial, and did not give any excuse for his absence. While the Court fined the Coast Guard officer 200 Euros for failing to show up, this is a mere slap on the wrist, while A.B.’s life is again kept in limbo for another six months.