Greece must drop life sentence charges against Afghan asylum seekers
The Greek government must stop criminalising refugees, Left MEPs Clare Daly and Stelios Kouloglou said on the eve of the trial of two Afghan asylum seekers. The two MEPs will be in Lesvos, Greece attending the appeal.
Amir Zahiri and Akif Razuli face 50 years each on charges of “facilitating illegal entry”. Like thousands of other refugees, they arrived in Lesvos on a dinghy in a perilous journey from Turkey.
The Greek Coast Guard punctured their boat, trying to push them back to Turkey. They were eventually taken on board, beaten and sent to pre-trial detention.
The charges are based on the testimony of one Coast Guard who accuses them of being smugglers without consideration of opposing evidence. Zahiri arrived in Lesvos with his pregnant wife and infant child.
The hearing last month, also attended by the MEPs, was postponed to tomorrow after several hours of waiting.
“We condemn the use of strict anti-smuggling laws in the EU to systematically incarcerate those reaching our shores without proper due process and a lack of objective criteria to establish intent. This is damaging the fabric of our rule of law and compliance with international asylum law,” said Clare Daly (Independents for Change, Ireland).
For Stelios Kouloglou (SYRIZA, Greece), the bogus nature of the charges is evident and must be dropped:
“The accused don’t have anything to do with the crime they are accused of. Amir was on the boat with his little daughter and his pregnant wife. We may take family to our workplace, but never at night, on a half-sunk boat against the waves.
“He saw his child for the first time in court. The few moments that he had the chance to hug the toddler were heart-wrenching,” Kouloglou concluded.
MEP-led petition calling for a fair trial and an end to the criminalisation of refugees.