11. Six months later

23rd March 2012

Hi all, so I’m sure everyone knows about the fundraising steps we have taken so far. Just to remind you, people can donate, buy a solidarity wristband and subscribe for a monthly newsletter. Really hoping people can support and help in any way they can. Remember if you want to organise your own fundraising event on our behalf contact us via the website for a free fundraising pack.

So to continue with our story. March 2011 was upon us. The previous six months had felt like six years but we got there and in early March, Mark received notification at the prison that he and the other seven men were to appear at the court on the 18th March 2011. This was it. There was no explanation as to why he was requested to appear or any details as to what would happen. However we all presumed it was the closing of the book of evidence and the pre-trial. In September 2010, it was explained to us that it would take 4-6 months for the book of evidence to close. After which we would be told what, if any, charges were being brought to trial and that a trial date should be set for before the end of the year. Hence our presumption.

Both my Mother and Father booked tickets to fly from Dublin to Crete and the Mark’s lawyer flew in from Athens on the morning of the 17th March. After he had checked into his hotel, we all met in the hotel cafe. Here he present me and my parents with a 10 paged document (in Greek) that he called his “allegations”. This was his presentation to the court, highlighting every reason why Mark should be released from prison on bail. It was at this point we realised the book of evidence had not closed and that this was not the pre-trial we had presumed it was. He explained that the state was obliged to review Mark’s detention after six months because Greek law states that this is the maximum detention for misdemeanors. So in affect it was an obligatory bail hearing. I should state in the three months prior to this, and after we received the DNA results we, Mark and I, had repeatedly requested the lawyer to submit a bail application for Mark. The lawyer agreed to our request however each week had an excuse as to why he had not submitted the application. At this stage in March he confessed to me that he did not make the application because he felt it would not have been even considered prior to Mark’s six months detention review and it would have been a waste of money. I understood but I was still upset as I felt we still have to fight. Unless we fight nothing is going to change.

During this meeting with my parents and the lawyer, he explained every step of his application to the court. It took aver two hours to go through every detail. He told us that in theory, on paper, if he was a lecturer with a group of law students the conclusion that would be drawn from this application and the charges against Mark would be… He should be released. However he said theory and what happens in practice were two very different things. Social influences, media, public opinion, personal perception all played a role in the decision of the deciding Judge and unfortunately for Mark as an Albanian in Crete all these factors went against him. He also said that normally, for anybody other than an Albanian, he would put our chances of a positive outcome at 50% but because Mark was Albanian it brought it right down to between 5-10% chance of a bail application being accepted.

It infuriates me that this is just excepted as a given. When I met Mark I had no preconceived ideas about Greeks, Albanian, Serbians or any other nationality you might meet in Crete. I didn’t even know were Albania was, knew nothing of its turbulent history or the relations between Greeks and Albanians. Maybe I was naive but I met Mark and got to know and love him for Mark, without the label of an “Albanian”. He was then and is now a fantastic, caring, loving, fun loving person who works hard and takes care of his family. Not a criminal that the label “an Albanian” automatically brings with it when living in Crete. However because of the side of the border he was born on, his right to justice, a fair trial, the right to respect of his human rights are blatantly and publicly ignored. At this meeting the lawyer fully admitted that if it was him or me on trial what had already happened, or what would continue to happen, would not be the case but the sole fact of Mark’s nationality was just reason for the courts and the police to do what they had and continue to do.

After Mark’s appearance in front of the council of Judges, Mark and his Lawyer were feeling very confident. The lawyer explained that the chief Judge had listened intently to his application and he felt that it a positive outcome was possible. After all eight men went before the Judge, they were handcuffed to each other again and with a huge police presence they were marched through the public courthouse, down the main stair case, out the front door to the waiting police van parked on one of the busiest shopping streets in Heraklion as shoppers, employees and tourist went about their daily business.

This is something Mark and I, and our families, have had to get used to. It is humiliating and degrading but at this stage it is a minor worry. We have learnt to hold our heads high in the knowledge that we have not made the mistakes. In the knowledge that the people who are there to protect us have made the mistake. The people who are there to make sure peoples liberty is respected, and right and wrong are dealt with appropriately. It makes it even easier to hold our head high in the knowledge that these mistakes were made because of public pressure, appearances and stereotypes. That common sense and justice where not even considered when these mistakes were made. We can hold our heads high in the knowledge that one day these people who have taken everything from Mark and me will know the truth and the results of their mistakes.

All 8 men were transported to Alikarnasas prison, closest to the court house. They next day all except Mark and his older brother Martin were transferred back to Neapoli Prison. Rumors started to spread that Mark and Martins bail application had been approved. We were told we would have to wait 5 to 10 days for the answer. Two days later Mark and Martin were transferred back to Neapoli. We waited three more weeks, apparently the chief Judge went on holidays before making the decision, before receiving the answer in April. The answer was “no for all eight men”.

Ok I’l get back to this a little later on, going to teach my younger brother to drive now. Thanks for reading and for all the support. Oh and I spoke to Mark today and told him about all the support. He wants to express his sincere gratitude to everybody who has supported us, an to those who have  bought the wristbands and signed the petition. Thanks again x