[A snapshot of the trial for the shooting of the immigrant workers in Manolada]
The foremen of the strawberry fields are facing charges for bodily harm and not for attempted homicide
35 were shot and injured by hunting weapons in Manolada
By Makis Nodaros
The unprecedented conditions of violence and inhuman exploitation, experienced by the migrant strawberry field workers in Ilia, who were shot by the foremen of their employers, come to life once more at the Mixed Jury (ΜΟΔ) of Patras.
There a businessman from Athens and three of his Ilian foremen are on trial, as responsible for the bloodshed of dozens of migrant land workers, at Nea Manolada at the district of Ilia strawberry fields in April of 2013.
Back then –as “E” had reported- the, unpaid for months, migrant workers from Bangladesh, who were employed in the businessman’s strawberry farms, were shot at by hunting weapons carried by his foremen, resulting in 35 of them getting injured and transferred initially to the Vardas Health Center and afterwards to neighboring hospitals.
All four of the defendants remain in custody, since, following their pleas, they have been judged as worthy of imprisonment by the Patras Judicial Authorities, even if the initial indictment against them was finally changed from attempted homicide and instigation to serious and dangerous injuries. It is worth noting that, according to the indictment, all four of the defendants are also on trial for the repeated offense of human trafficking.
The 71/2014 decree by the Board of Appeals describes unprecedented images of intense violence and human exploitation faced by the victims of the attack by the perpetrators, when they dared to ask from the latter for their accrued earnings.
As it is noted in the indictment, the businessman at the 42nd kilometer of the new national road of Patras-Pyrgos, from January 2011 up until the 17th of April 2013, intending to exploit the migrant workers labor, received their consent for giving work to 200-plus persons.
By taking advantage of their vulnerable position:
- since most of them were illegally in the country and were thus unable to move freely
- they needed to work for their livelihoods
- they did not speak Greek and were therefore unable to claim their rights.
He hired them by promising them a daily wage of 22 euros, and also providing them with makeshift dwellings that could satisfy their most rudimental housing needs.
Based on the indictment, following the settlement of the migrant workers in the dwellings, and despite the fact that they had not been given the 200,000 euros wowed to them, the three foremen forced them to keep working by threatening that if they demanded their accruals… they would burn them alive along with the shelters were they lived…
Serious allegations regarding the seat of the court that is hearing this case were made by Petros Konstantinou, a coordinator with KEERFA (Movement United Against Racism and the Fascist Threat).
Mr. Konstantinou, as a member of KEERFA, which has been following the trial of the three foremen and their employer since day one at the Patras courts, condemned to “E” the provocative – as he characterized it – tolerance of the judges to offensive remarks made by key figures in the trial against the migrant workers prosecution witnesses.
Mr. Konstantinou claims that there was an attempt at buying out a particular witness for 25,000 euros, in order for him to take the money and leave the country… “The cynicism of the defendants smiling on the stand is not surprising, as if they never shot at the protesting workers. Not even the racist discourse on behalf of their lawyers, that reached a point where they asked “if the Bangladeshis eat dogs”, along with the seat of the court allowing such questions”, mentioned Mr. Konstantinou.
A few days ago the lawyers of the migrant workers filed an exception request against the president of the court hearing the case, on the grounds of her being biased in favor of the defendants. The request was however denied and the trial continues as normal.
As KEERFA complains, the trial was attended by a group of workers who denounced a new case of employer racist violence. Mohammed Islam claimed that when he asked for his wages, his employer, a city councilor candidate, hit him…
“It is scandalous that the killers are on trial for the charges of heavy bodily injuries and not for attempted homicide. The trial will last a long while. We call for the massive support of all workers and youths so that the racist employer’s violence will not go down lightly and for the guilty parties to be convincted”, states the relevant announcement by KEERFA.
On the defendant’s side it is claimed that the migrant workers asked for a large monetary sum in order to stop chasing the case at the courts.
Translated article from ‘Eleftherotypia’ newspaper. Published 25/07/2014. Online here.