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International legal team condemns Crete courtroom racism

EnetEnglish.gr, Friday 16 May 2014.

Experts shocked at unruly scenes during appeal hearing

As case postponed yet again for man who says he was in Ireland for some of the crimes he jailed for, defence team expresses concern at ‘unpredictable court proceedings’ and ‘visible racism’ in and around the courthouse

marku case

Leonidas Pegiadis (Athens criminal lawyer), David Langwallner (Irish Innocence Project) and Dr Greg Hampikian (American DNA expert) go through the DNA evidence

An international group of legal experts, journalists and defence supporters who have come to Greece for the appeal of a man convicted to 18 years for a number of crimes he says he could not have committed have expressed their concern at the “vocal anti-Albanian racism” during the hearing.

In January 2012, after 16 months in custody, Mark Marku, who is now 28, and four other men were convicted of a litany of charges including seven armed robberies of jewellery shops in Crete in 2010. He received an 18-year jail sentence and his brother, Andreas, was also convicted. Mark Marku, however, claims he was in Ireland for six of these crimes – his wife is Irish – and his defence say they have evidence, including witness statements and flight information, to prove this.

Marku’s defence team includes Leonidas Pegiadis, a respected criminal lawyer from Athens, and two international experts: leading DNA authoritiy Dr Greg Hampikian, a professor at Boise State University in Idaho, USA, and David Langwallner, head of the Irish Innocence Project. Both men are active in cases of wrongful conviction and are volunteering their services on Marku’s case.

Along with others, they expressed their concern at the provocative racism they witnessed at the appeal hearing, which is being held at Iraklio courthouse in Crete. During the hearing, a member of the public was removed from the court for shouting racist slurs while Pegiadis was cross examining a prosecution witness. At another point, a prosecution witness was repeatedly chastised by the presiding judge for his anti-Albanian comments.

After he took the stand, Hampikian, the American DNA expert, said he was alarmed that people were allowed to shout out from the gallery while he was giving evidence. “I became even more worried when the shouting was translated for me. I was told they said ‘When they get out they will beat you up too, because they are Albanian’.”

‘Albanian lover’

Aoibheann O’Sullivan, an Irish-South African broadcast journalist who is making a documentary film about Marku’s case, said: “I was expecting the appeal to have a certain amount of fluidity to it, but I have never experienced such an unpredictable court proceeding.

“The entire procedure of the appeal was a roller coaster ride trying to second guess what would happen next, but I was astonished at the visible racism expressed around the courthouse. I was filming an interview with Victor Marku, whose two brothers are appealing their conviction, when a member of the public shouted ‘Albanian lover’ at me. At another point the civil lawyer for the victims of the robberies yelled at my crew to stop filming at the court. From my understanding, he told us to go to Albania to film the mansions. It’s is an unsettling dynamic.”

“The scene in the courtroom was at times chaotic with shouting and racist epithets against Albanians being used by witnesses and members of the public” – David Langwallner

“That is nothing compared to the hostility we experienced at Mark’s original trial in 2012,” said Phyl O’Reilly, Mark’s Irish mother-in-law. “There was constant shouting at my husband and I as we were giving our witness testimony, and you could not even hear Mark’s testimony for all of the roaring. One of the prosecuting witnesses explained he knew all the men were guilty because they were Albanian and even went as far as saying ‘they should all be taken outside and hung’, so this time around it seems much calmer to us.”

David Langwallner, who was due to give testimony on Thursday before the case was adjourned, said: “The scene in the courtroom was at times chaotic with shouting and racist epithets against Albanians being used by witnesses and members of the public.”

Marku’s appeal hearing was postponed on Thursday after only three days. The case had already been postponed in December due to a technicality and will now resume on June 6. Each delay in his appeal has piled on the emotional and financial cost of the case on him, his Irish wife Julie and her family.

Bill O’Reilly, Marku’s father-in-law, expressed his anger that Mark’s appeal was further delayed, following the dramatic postponement in December 2013. “It has been over two years since Mark was convicted for crimes he could not possibly do because he was in Ireland. Justice delayed is justice denied. It is difficult to comprehend that this nightmare continues for Mark, Julie and both our families.”…

 Full article is here

For more check the website made for this case

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