Day 2: Deferral sine die of the trial

Summary

Date:6 November 2020
Location:Athens Court of First Instance, Degleri street, courtroom #1
Access:Access to the courthouse was limited due to measures against the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. No audience was allowed in the courtroom with the exception of the victim’s family and a few journalists.
Defendants in attendance:Athanasios Chortarias, owner of a real estate agency
Vassilios Rousakos, police officer, Zeta Group
Leonidas Alexandris, police officer, Zeta Group
David Seferis, police officer, DIAS Group
Ioannis Tsombanis, police officer, DIAS Group
Process:Deferral sine die of the trial, following article 349 of the Code of Penal Procedure (impossibility to conduct the trial due to force majeure).

Report

On 6 November 2020, the second day of the trial began at around 9:25 a.m. The lawyers for the defense and for the prosecution as well as the prosecutor requested that the court go into recess rather than postponing the trial, in order to secure a larger room. The chair stated that the recent ministerial decree pertaining to Covid-19 restrictive measures is poorly written as, while establishing that no more than 15 individuals can be present in the same courtroom, it does not take in consideration the size of the room. “As this is an issue of public health I do not wish to impose it. I believe that this decree can be interpreted within the framework of c=our constitutional obligations,” the chair stated. He further emphasised that, under a strict reading of the decree, it is not possible at this stage to engage in a process that will not be challenged for violating due process rules under the European Convention for Human Rights.

The prosecutor’s proposal mentioned that: “I see here all involved, the court,
the defendants, all of them healthy and willing to proceed, none claiming that they face health issues. The future is unclear, we cannot know what will happen after several months, we don’t know where this is going. As far as I am concerned each deferral is a cancellation, I am in favour of proceeding. We are all ready, I suggest we begin.”

The policemen’s lawyer Thanos Plevris requested that the trial begin with a reading of the charges, and that the court go into recess until after the future lift of the restrictive measures against Covid-19.

Lawyers for the prosecution Clio Papantoleon and Anny Paparrousou requested that “the process begin with a temporary recess until the matter can be clarified and a larger courtroom can be secured in order to comply with all requirements pertaining to the public character of the trial, given that this trial is expected to last for a while and penal courts can hardly be expected to defer all trials involving multiple defendants.”

The lawyer for defendant Athanasios Chortarias, Orfeas Filos, referred to the restrictive measures imposed upon his client, stating: “It may be that these restrictive measures are only about presenting himself at the local police precinct and not leaving the country; however, due to these, we do not wish for the trial to be delayed and we was the chair to examine every possibility to proceed, even if it entails going into recess.”

After listening to the arguments put forward by the prosecutor and the lawyers for both sides, the chair finally opted for deferral sine die under article 349 of the Code of Penal Procedure, stating that, due to current circumstances and uncertainty related to the pandemic, he could not proceed with a recess based on speculation about the future: “It is with great regret that I have to defer this case.”

The session ended at 9:55 a.m., with the trial being deferred sine die.

It is expected that in due time a new date will be given for the trial and a new court will be appointed.

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