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THE trial of four Afghan teenagers jailed for 10 years each for starting a fire that destroyed a much-criticised refugee camp last year was not up to legal standards, observers have said.
The youths were found guilty on Saturday of “arson with risk to human life” for the fire that broke out at the vastly overcrowded Moria refugee camp on the Aegean island of Lesbos.
Greek authorities left about 12,000 people without help for days after the camp, originally built to house 3,000, was destroyed by the blaze before a new camp was hastily built on a former military firing range.
The charges were brought against six Afghan youths — known to campaigners as the Moria Six — last year, and two of them were sentenced to five years in a juvenile prison in March.
When the latest trial began on Friday, the court blocked all members of the public — including journalists, legal observers and a representative from the United Nations rights agency (UNHCR) — from attending.
None of the 15 prosecution witnesses who testified against the youngsters had seen them on the night of the fire.
“The only witness who identified the accused did not present himself to the court. His written testimony was full of inconsistencies,” the youths’ lawyer Natasha Dailiani said on Saturday.
Despite the fact that three of the youths were under 18 at the time of fire, the judge rejected the defence’s application on Friday to try them in a juvenile court, meaning they will carry out their sentence in an adult prison.
After the trial, defence lawyer Effie Doussi said: “We will exhaust all legal remedies to ensure that the accused get a fair trial and a clear verdict showing that they are innocent.”
And legal observer Annina Mullis from Democratic Lawyers Switzerland said: “Based on the impressions gathered outside the court building and the detailed information provided by the lawyers, I agree with their assessment that the trial as a whole does not meet the standards of a fair trial.”
Oda Becker, a member of the Free the Moria Six solidarity campaign said: “We will continue to support the wrongfully convicted boys and their families in solidarity.
“The case of the Moria Six is not the first time that migrants have been arbitrarily arrested and charged in Greece. This practice has long been part of the inhumane EU border regime.
“The criminalisation of migration has reached a new level, as have the illegal ‘pushbacks’ of migrants by the authorities.”
The charity Borderline Europe described the trial as “a farce, a theatre play where the end was already decided: shifting the blame for a terrible catastrophe to six teenagers — kids — that had only come to seek a better life.
“We must talk about the horrible conditions that enable such a fire. We must talk about why such a deadly camp could exist in the first place. About those who are actually responsible for the fire.”
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