Greece: Anarchist prisoner Tassos Theofilou on his forthcoming appeals trial starting on Nov. 21st
On November 21st, my appeals trial begins after a 9-month postponement and a three year interval since my first instance trial, during which I was sentenced to serve 25 years in prison for the events related to the robbery on Paros island on the 10th of August 2012. I was found guilty on two counts of complicity to manslaughter and robbery, but was acquitted of all charges for participation in the CCF and manslaughter. A politically-not judicially- compromising verdict, which resulted from the clash between the police’s and the media’s version of events during the first days of my arrest on one hand and the absence of any incriminating evidence as well as the solidarity expressed in the audience and counter-information on the other.
This is how the temporary Solomon-like decision of my partial acquittal from the charges ensued, by transposing the possibility of a final verdict to the Court of Appeals. Given that apart from my appeal for acquittal from all charges, a district attorney named Dracos (obviously chosen for this trial on account of his name) also appealed the verdict ”in favour of the law” in order to achieve another symbolism in the fairy tale of the counter terrorism police by taking advantage of the disagreement among the presiding judge Mr. Hatziathanasiou, who voted for my conviction on all counts and the other two members of the trial chamber who chose a milder resolution which eventually prevailed. Mr. Dracos probably assessed that a 25-year sentence without any evidence against me was not enough and in this way he turned my appeal into a repetition of the trial of first instance, since the Solomon-like acquittals for some of the counts are now invalidated and create the possibility not only to not to be free of all charges but to a much more extended sentence than the previous one.
I consider that due to the way the media handled my arrest, my detention in remand and my conviction, a few issues emerge that do not only concern me personally but embody a much wider social and political significance, since a deeply police state attempted to implement the most extreme dogma of penal repression. From the medieval-like smear campaign against me during the first days of my arrest and the effort to squeeze my profile into criminological stereotypes that were abandoned two centuries ago, as well as the use of metaphysical elements nonetheless presented as science, such as the use of the so-called DNA on the hat, which is the basis of this entire tragic story.
This last one -the uncontrollable use of DNA- is one of the basic issues that was emphasized and became restricted to a certain degree following the hunger strike staged by the Network of Imprisoned Fighters. In any case the question that arises is how is this allowed by the Inspectorate of Forensic Investigations and how do courts validate these results with their verdicts when contrary to its purpose, the STR method is used in Greece to prove guilt. The creator of this method has previously stated that this method can can only be used to exclude suspects and not prove their guilt. Why is this method still being used in Greece when the U.S., the country that introduced the method in the ’80s, has considered it inaccurate, since a series of mistakes were made through the years. How come the labs of the Inspectorate of Forensic Research were certified with the ISO just in 2014 when hundreds of people, including me, had been convicted based on lab tests that were still not accredited?
Regarding my case, very particular reasons account for these sloppy methods, since the evidence based on which I am being prosecuted is the genetic material found on a hat which allegedly fell off one of the perpetrators during their get-away and which is 100% compatible with my DNA. However, there are two important details. First, it does not occur from anywhere that a hat had fallen off any perpetrator since forensic photographs that depict even the slightest detail at the crime scene and all the objects that were present, from shell cases to glasses, do not show a hat anywhere. Moreover, the hat appears for the first time in the photographed evidence at the General Police Inspectorate and seems to have followed a different track. Based on official documents it appears that it was sent there by the Police Department in Paros on a different date and following a different route from the rest of the evidence. The prosecution witnesses, despite the obvious pressure they had to endure, the suggestive questions posed by the presiding judge Mr. Hatziathanasiou and ”the seminar” they were subjected to by the prosecution which was revealed at a later stage which was glossed over by the judge with the ironic statement ”it’s ok, these things happen” – fell into a series of contradictions and in the end there was no certainty that there was even a hat after all. Secondly, in the report of the Inspectorate of Forensic Investigations, which magically came to the conclusion that my DNA is a 100% match mentions that a cotton swab was used to collect tissue from the interior of the had but does not specify the type of tissue that was found. It doesn’t specify whether it was saliva, sweat, blood, sperm, skin cells, or anything else, which is very important for anyone to know and it’s something even freshmen students in biology are trained to do, let alone professionals whose tests affect people’s convictions. The report of the Inspectorate of Forensics Investigations which has been part of the case during all the procedural stages, from the interrogation room to the court of appeals, is insultingly incomplete. In essence, this report compares my DNA sample which was extracted violently by the police with absolutely nothing. With the use of this method it is obvious the result would present a 100% match. Also, this constitutes the main reason why none of the forensic scientists on the case came to the trial as witnesses to defend their eccentric theories, because even card-playing would have proved more reliable than the use of DNA tests run by the IFI.
My arrest can be placed in the context of a specific campaign run jointly by the domestic ”law and order” lobby – a group of journalists, the anti-terrorism department, the appeals interrogators and some Supreme Court judge-wannabes – against the anarchist milieu since September 2009, under the pretext of dismantling the C.C.F.. A ”vacancy” occurred in the case of Nea Smyrni in December 2010, based on an actual meeting with my friend and comrade Kostas Sakkas at a kebab shop somewhere in Kallithea, as well as a meeting in Agrinio that never actually took place with a man who was then unknown to me and is now my good friend and cell mate George Karagiannides. This ”vacancy” was offered to me by the anti-terrorism department when the time seemed right in August 2012, after a citizen was fatally injured in his effort to prevent the get-away of the perpetrators following a robbery in Alpha Bank, on Paros island. This opportunity was ideal to slander the anarchist milieu and present it as a movement constituted by ruthless and blood-thirsty villains.
It took the mobilization of all media who focused exclusively on my arrest for a whole week in order for their scenario to become believable. During this week I was called a ruthless murderer and all my photos in every possible pose were everywhere on the internet, while my transfer to the court was live streaming on all tv channels. Judges, media and the police violated every single right of mine in the name of law and order and offended my presumption of innocence. The media cannibalism against me has gone beyond any perceivable limit, even in spite of the aesthetics of the contemporary post-modern Middle Ages. Of course it was not only media power, which in order to ensure my conviction used the short stories I authored as well as elements of my personal life to ”squeeze” my profile into criminological stereotypes of preferably the paranoid killer, but also the judiciary. It is exactly this media imposition that rendered the lack of any incriminating evidence against me insignificant and even the provocative statement of the director of the anti-terrorism police Mr. Chardalias: ”I can’t say, maybe the man was not present at the robbery” which not only failed to become a scandal but was also not put in the trial records. A scandal because it was not just something that slipped out but because it was a statement- a display of power of a man and the department he represents in the public space and time of a trial. A scandal because in this arrogant way he expressed the uncontrollable power of his department by insinuating cynically that: ” I have no interest whether this man was present at the robbery or not. I have no interest for details such as evidence. I am interested in putting him behind bars for my own reasons. And he is currently behind bars”. A development more or less expected when the department was given free rein to carry out the suppressing management against the anarchist milieu .
A service of the police which provocatively retains privileged relations with the media, to the point where media reports and articles become entangled in case files and are eventually considered incriminating evidence. Of course, one could not expect anything better from the presiding judge Mr. Hatziathanasiou who based all of his arguments to prove my guilt on the fact that during the winter months in Korydallos I was using a shaver and not a razor ( one of the perpetrators in the CCTV photos seems to not have thick facial hair which means he was disguised therefore he was me!), I have not served in the army and never read Genet, instead of accepting the trial documents which according to the opinion of the writer of the indictment prove my guilt and apart from my collection of essays titled ”Paranoirico” that were published online, it consists of reports from the far-right tabloid Proto Thema in order to successfully outline my profile. Nobody expected the prosecutor Mrs. Economou to react since she considered it was ok to spend a great part of the trial having a nap inside the courtroom, which in any case not only is not classy but might even fall under her job description- when it was time for her to speak instead of introducing her proposals she read the case file.
More or less these were the conditions that defined the first instance trial: political circumstances characterized by anti-terrorism crusades at the top of the agenda of a far-right government. Mr. Athanasiou, former prosecutor who was appointed Minister of Justice had announced the operation of Type C prisons within 100 days for the housing of those facing terrorism charges. At the same time the anti-terrorism unit constantly harassed Kostas Sakkas, who was arrested every other day under ridiculous pretexts that made him flee from justice.
Today the circumstances are different since the government that has taken over the management of power and the enforcement of extreme austerity policies is under the impression that it still addresses a progressive audience and therefore does not have the anti-terrorism/anti-crime/anti-immigrant policies at the forefront, at least on a symbolic level. Despite the reluctance of the Ministry of Justice to clash with the domestic ‘law and order’ lobby and its fear to enforce a legal control over the literally uncontrolled and unsupervised judicial authority, which according to the dreadful Article 177 regarding the ethical proof and its extremely fundamental understanding, interpretation and abuse, verdicts are not necessarily derived based on legality but judges are free to assess cases as they like and only be accountable to their conscience – a conscience so dirty and infectious even Pontius Pilate would find this convenient. The double-standards tactic adopted the Ministry of Justice, which passes laws seemingly progressive but articulated in a way that entails the possibility of non-enforcement by judges, illustrates that the ministry has invested in tackling ”white collar” crime only symbolically but not essentially.
These are the circumstances and these are the facts. I consider the judicial struggle I am called to give for my acquittal in the appeals court to be a moment in the struggle against the police state, against penal repression and its extreme dogmas. A battle of specific existential character where critic and opponent are embodied in the same institution: that of judicial authority.
I want to underline that I am not pleading not guilty and not begging any judge to believe me. I am not innocent. In this class war have chosen to side with the wronged and the oppressed, with the excluded and the persecuted, with the guilty and the damned. I was organized politically in the anarchist milieu with the grand aim to attack the social, political and financial structures of the capital and its state. But I refused before, I refuse now and will refuse again the actions I am being charged with. I was never a member of the C.C.F., I did not take part in that robbery and most importantly I never killed and could never kill an unarmed citizen for any reason and under any circumstances .
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