Protest held in London for British student in Greek jail
A protest was held in London at the Greek embassy for a British student accused of manslaughter. The student at Bournemouth University, Andrew Symeou, is accused of killing Jonathan Hiles of Cardiff by punching him in a nightclub at the Isle of Zante in 2007. Symeou is being held at Korydallos prison in Athens, a prison Amnesty International say is one of Europe’s worst.
The protest was led by his sister Sophie Symeou, who said: “The case against my brother is riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies suggestive of manipulation and in places fabrication of evidence by police officers. Andrew has been held in a Greek prison without a trial for nearly six months and has been refused bail twice. My brother has suffered for too long and this cannot continue – we are protesting outside the Greek Embassy to say enough is enough.”
About 100 people turned up for the protest, chanting “enough is enough,” and “justice for Andrew.” The group called for an end to his detention, a trial date to be set and an inquiry into allegations of police misconduct.
Symeou was arrested at his home in London in June 2008 over the death of 18-year-old Hiles in a Zakynthos nightclub in July 2007. Hiles was punched and then hit his head after falling off a dance stage. He died in the hospital two days later.
Symeou has denied killing him, stating that he was not even at the club at that time and his legal team has raised doubts about the way the Zakynthos police handled the investigation, as key witnesses claim they were coerced into identifying Symeou as the main suspect. Symeou was transferred to Greece in July 2009.
Human rights group Amnesty International and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture have repeatedly expressed concern about Korydallos prison.
Amnesty said inmates faced degrading treatment including poor hygiene in cells and a lack of fresh air, exercise facilities or prompt medical treatment.
A British member of the European Parliament (MEP) said yesterday that she would contact Prime Minister George Papandreou directly about the ongoing detention of Symeou, in Korydallos Prison. Sarah Ludford, an MEP for the Liberal Democrats, said that Symeou, entering his sixth month of pre-trial custody in Greece, is wrongly being denied bail and that concerns about the handling of his case have not been investigated properly.
“Andrew Symeou’s unjust treatment must come to an end,” said Ludford, who is the Liberal Democrats’ European Justice and Human rights spokeswoman. “Greek authorities have denied him bail and kept him in prison for the last six months purely because he is a foreigner. This discriminatory treatment offends against European human rights and undermines the principles of measures like the European arrest warrant.”
Ludford, who also took part in the protest, demanded Symeou’s immediate release on bail pending trial and also a serious investigation into police conduct.
“Defendants must be confident that they will be treated decently and given a fair trial throughout the EU,” Ludford said.
Fair trials international who have showed concern for Symeou’s case, state that police conduct of the situation, mistaken identity, conflicting evidence and violent intimidation of witnesses have resulted in the unfair extradition of Andrew Symeou.
Fair Trials International Chief Executive Jago Russell said: “Andrew has already been held for months in a Greek jail without any opportunity to clear his name.
“We are urging Greece to bring this family’s unjustified ordeal to an end, to release Andrew on bail and to investigate the serious allegations of police misconduct.”