Greece: Because Mousafir resisted a pushback, he was sentenced to 47 years in prison
Joint statement by borderline-europe, Can’t Evict Solidarity and CPT - Aegean Migrant Solidarity and Mobile Info Team
On 09 June, the appeal trial of 23-year-old Mousafir, a young English teacher from Afghanistan, will take place in Komotini, Greece. He had been trying to reach Greece via the Thracian Sea in October 2019 when their boat became the target of a pushback attempt by the authorities. Because he tried to keep the Frontex boat at a distance with a metal stick, he was "identified" as the smuggler by the Coast Guard and sentenced to 47 years and 6 months for smuggling.
***UPDATE: Something no one had expected has happened: Mousafir, who was sentenced to 47 years in the first instance, was completely acquitted of the smuggling charge! The judges accepted "reasonable doubts". This is again a precedent in our struggle! He was still found guilty of resisting against authorities, and received eight months for this, but since he already had to spend full 2.5 years in prison, he will be released! To date, we have not seen a court accept "reasonable doubt" as an argument, let alone when the person was found guilty at first instance and sentenced to a substantial prison term. This is an important and exciting precedent that we will look at closely.
However, as great as the news is, it remains to be said that the discrepancy and differences in jurisprudence across Greece are absurd. In one place people are acquitted, in another they are sentenced to life imprisonment for the same crime. This must end. And, most importantly, it is important to stress: This is not a question of guilt or innocence, but of decriminalising migration and the facilitation of it. Crossing borders is not a crime, steering a boat is not a crime, resisting a pushback is not a crime but a right! An in-deph trial report with legal details will follow***
After receiving death threats from the Taliban, Mousafir left Afghanistan and tried to reach Europe to seek asylum. Together with 44 other people, he tried to cross the Thracian Sea in northern Greece on a rubber boat in October 2019 where they were attacked by a Greek coast guard boat and a Frontex vessel. According to Mousafir and other passengers, they were afraid that they would sink their boat, as they had been pushed back on land and at sea before. Mousafir tried, unsuccessfully, to push the ship away with a metal stick.
As a result, Mousafir was "identified" as the smuggler by the Greek coast guard and arrested. He spent 11 months in pre-trial detention before being sentenced to 47 years and 6 months by the one-member court in Thrace on 08 September 2020 for the "facilitation of unauthorized entry" of 44 third-country nationals, his own "unauthorized entry" and "violent resistance".
He was sentenced despite the fact that the other passengers unanimously testified that he was not the smuggler but one of them, that they were all in fear for their lives and that Mousafir had actually tried to calm the children on the boat when the situation escalated.
The only testimony against him came from the Greek Coast Guard.
This Thursday, 09 June, his appeal trial will take place. He has already spent more than 2,5 years in prison. His mother, who together with his father and siblings had campaigned for Mousafir's release from Afghanistan and contacted us for help, has since been murdered by the Taliban. His brother and sister are in hiding, but still try to support him in any way they can.
As documented by CPT - Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe and Deportation Monitoring Aegean, the filing of such charges against migrants arriving in Greece has been systematically used by the Greek state for several years. The arrests that follow these often-unfounded accusations of smuggling are arbitrary, and the trials flout basic standards of fairness. Without sufficient evidence, they are usually arrested upon arrival and kept in pre-trial detention for months. When their case finally comes to court, their trials average only 38 minutes in length, leading to an average sentence of 44 years and fines over 370.000 Euro.
Since Mousafir's arrest, pushbacks have not only continued, but even worsened. New reports and research are constantly coming to light that prove the cruel tactics of the authorities. No one has yet been held accountable.
For us it is clear: boat driving and border crossings are not a crime, and certainly not resistance to a pushback! The real crime is the border regime established by the EU and its partners along the various migration routes.
We will continue to stand up for and support people who try to exercise their freedom of movement!
• the immediate release of Mousafir;
• an immediate end to pushbacks;
• freedom for all those imprisoned for “boat driving” despite the fact that there is no alternative to reach the European Union;
• an end to the criminalisation of migration and end to the incarceration of people on the move!