Kostas Sakkas: Three years on remand in order to… make an example

Translation of Katerina Kati’s article for The Editors’ Νewspaper, 03 June 2013

Re-posted from eagainst.com

He has been on remand for 3 years and was prosecuted twice for the same offence, despite the fact that his name doesn’t even appear in the case file.

The maximum time he should spend on remand expires tomorrow; and he chose this date to start a hunger strike, clarifying that “this is not an act of desperation, but rather to keep up the fight.”

He was prosecuted twice for the same offence. He was put on remand twice.

The maximum time he could be held on remand for the second time is twelve months. But when this time was over, instead of being released, his detention period was extended for another six months. Meanwhile, his first trial has not been completed and the second (for which he is now being held prisoner) has not even started.

All this, seventeen years after the adoption of Law 2408/1996, which prohibits splitting a single case against the same defendant into several cases and imposing multiple, successive pre-trial detentions, in order to prevent that temporary custody extends beyond the statutory 18 months.

An unprecedented case

In fact, this ban was enacted after a series of convictions of Greece by the European Court of Human Rights, because precisely of this type of violation.

The case of Kostas Sakkas is truly unprecedented, because, as noted by his lawyer, Marina Daliani, “such a direct and cynical violation of the Code of Penal Procedure, the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) concerning remand hasn’t happened in 17 years (since law 2408/1996 is in effect).”

But what happened in the case of young Kostas Sakkas, who is at risk of remaining in detention for three years without trial, when, furthermore, his maximum detention time according to the law expires tomorrow, Tuesday 4 June, while he is still being held prisoner? In fact, Kostas himself chose this “symbolic” date to start a hunger strike. A choice which, as he clarifies, “is not an act of desperation, but rather to keep up the fight”.

Kostas Sakkas was arrested on 04/12/2010 in Athens. He gave his deposition to the 31st regular investigating magistrate on 07/12/2010 for the offences of membership in an unknown terrorist organisation and aggravated gun possession, and was put on remand. During his time in detention, he was further indicted for membership in the organisation Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire (CCF) and was summoned for a complementary deposition on 12/04/2011. That was when the order was issued to extend the detention warrant imposed on 07/12/2010.

During his time in detention (specifically two months before the completion of the 18-month period), he was charged anew with the same offence, i.e. membership in the CCF (for which charges had already been pressed, with the trial still pending) and with a series of actions for which the CCF claimed responsibility between 01/01/2008 and 04/12/2010 (this is the court case for which a trial began in the three-member Court of Appeals for Felonies in Athens on 05/04/2013).

Not a single mention

According to the defence, there isn’t the slightest indication of guilt against him for all these actions (there actually isn’t the slightest mention of his name in the whole case file). Furthermore, all the individual files pertaining to the case were available to the special Investigating Magistrate of the Court of Appeals before 12/04/2011, when K. Sakkas was summoned for a complementary deposition; thus, legally, according to the Code of Penal Procedure, there was no possibility to issue a new detention warrant against him. Despite all this, he was declared again to be on remand, and his new temporary detention period formally started on 04/06/2012, when the first eighteen months had expired.

The maximum time limit for his second detention period, as defined by the Code of Penal Procedure (12 months) ran out before his first trial was finalised, while the second trial (for which he is being held on remand) has not even started. The Council of Magistrates of Appeals issued an order to extend his time on remand by another six months. He therefore risks spending 3 years on remand without trial.

No possible extension

However, as pointed out by Ms Daliani, according to article 288 § 2 of the Code of Penal Procedure of the Penal Code, a second temporary detention period cannot last more than one year and cannot be extended when imposed while the defendant is already on remand, even if it refers to other acts.

K. Sakkas has already filed objections to the Council of Magistrates of Appeals against the extension of his detention. A motion to reverse the contentious detention order on grounds that the Council exceeded its powers was submitted to the Public Prosecutor of the Supreme Court and is still pending.

K. Sakkas has stated that he is an anarchist and that his presence at the site where he was arrested (while exiting a rented warehouse where firearms were stored) has to do with his political identity and the choices it entails. As for being detained for participating in the CCF, he claims that it happened because “charges of participating in an organisation that has no prior recorded activity and whose members do not possess bombs, pamphlets or guns, an organisation that does not even have a name, would obviously not stand in a courtroom”.

He further adds: “I made it clear in the past –as did the CCF itself from their side– that I am not a member of the said organisation. I say this not in order to avoid the vengeful, punitive ordeal that bourgeois justice has in store for anyone accused of being a CCF member, but simply because this is the way it is.

“I have to spell it out for the true historical record. Today, having been held on remand for 2.5 years basically for simply possessing a firearm (just to clarify, aggravated possession of firearms means that the firearms held by someone are intended either to be traded or to supply a terrorist organisation, for which there is no evidence in my case, nor do I accept it), the main institutional defenders of the judiciary and the law, who are detaining me for violating it, decided to ignore even their own constitution. Essentially, this prolonged state of captivity, which imposes upon me these devastating periods of temporary detention, is an offset for flimsy, badly doctored charges that cannot but fizzle out in the courtroom, no matter what they do and despite the special status that characterises these accusations (from any point of view). Anyone who has gone through this process, even for a short while, knows this very well.

Because I believe that the road to individual and collective freedom is paved with struggle and resistance, I decided to commence a hunger strike on Tuesday 4 June, on the day when, according to the existing legal framework, my maximum pre-trial detention period time is over.”

… and he is not alone

Gerasimos Tsakalos is the victim of a similar human rights violation; in fact, he was summoned to give a deposition for the offence of “direct complicity in forgery with the aim to commit criminal acts under Article 187A on terrorist activity”. The summon concerns the case of a robbery in Velvento near Kozani. The charges are strange to say the least, since he was on remand, and what is more after successive extensions, at the time when the robbery was committed. It seems that the prevailing rationale is that any anti-authoritarian arrested for “X” reasons is simultaneously dubbed a member of the CCF. The same thing happened with G. Karagiannidis, C. Sakkas, A. Mitrousias, Th. Mavropoulos and others. Their own political statements, as well as those of the CCF and its imprisoned members do not seem to matter at all in the nightmarish case files.

Of course, others are arrested with kitchen knives and weapons and leave their fingerprints on human victims, but simply state that they are not members of anything, take off the t-shirts with a specific logo and, as a rule, are released with minor charges, even if they are caught in the act of blowing up a bank. You see, for such people, the Penal Code applies without aggravating circumstances!

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