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Fairness of the trial against Afghan teenagers accused of burning down Moria refugee camp called into question

Public barred from courtroom and prosecution’s key witness doesn’t show. Elsewhere in Fortress Europe, Libyan Coastguards intercept hundreds of refugees and intimidate NGO rescuers

THE FAIRNESS of a trial against four Afghan teenagers today accused of burning down an overcrowded refugee camp in Greece last year has been called into question after the court shut out the public and a key eyewitness for the prosecution did not show up.

The infamous Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos burnt down last September, leaving about 12,000 people without help from the authorities for days until a new camp was built on what was later revealed to be a former military weapons testing ground.

Six teenagers have since been accused of starting the fire, but 70 refugee support groups signed an open letter last week warning that the teenagers’ right to a fair trial was at risk and that they were to be made scapegoats for the EU’s inhumane migration policies.

“From the moment of their arrest and before any due process of law, they have been presented to the public as the culprits,” the open letter reads.

“Rather than seeing the fire as an inevitable disaster in a deadly camp infrastructure, the Greek state arrested six young Afghan migrants and presented them as the culprits and sole cause of the fire, attempting to stifle further public debate on the living conditions inside the camp and political responsibility.”

Waiting outside the court after legal observers, journalists and members of the public were refused entry due to space restrictions, members of Legal Centre Lesbos said this morning that the defence lawyers’ applications to have three of the defendants’ cases heard before a juvenile court — owing to the fact that they were minors at the time of their arrest — was rejected.

“The eyewitness for the prosecution, the only person to have claimed to recognise the defendants, was absent from the trial,” Legal Centre Lesvos reported this afternoon.

“Despite applications from the defence team to discard his testimony, it was included in court in violation of the fundamental legal principle that defendants have the right to cross-examine those testifying against them.”

Two of the Moria Six, as they are referred to by activists disputing the Greek authorities’ version of events, have already been jailed for five years after a six-hour trial in March.

The case against the four other boys is ongoing.

Elsewhere, at Fortress Europe’s Mediterranean edges, the EU-supported Libyan Coastguard intercepted and returned over 200 people today (and 450 yesterday) attempting to escape the war-torn country.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned on Thursday that the crew on board its new rescue ship, the Geo Barents, had been threatened by the Libyans during a rescue mission that afternoon.

“The Geo Barents has just completed a rescue of 26 people including 15 unaccompanied minors from a small wooden boat 44 nautical [miles] off Sabratha,” MSF tweeted.

“While the rescue was ongoing, the Libyan Coastguard was verbally intimidating and threatening the MSF team via radio.”

Top image shows the court in Chios where four of the Moria Six are on trial (Pic: Free the Moria Six Solidarity Campaign)

Published by The Civil Fleet

A news blog and podcast focused on the activist-led refugee rescue and support missions across Fortress Europe

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