16th April 2012
Hi everyone, So what a week its been… CRAZY… thank so much to everyone who has helped raise the petition numbers to nearly 500! Also I’m sure if your reading this you already know but the media campaign finally got off the ground this week with two radio interviews and an invite to TV3’s This Morning Show, so watch out for that.
As I said when I first started this blog, this is a place for me to let go of the conversations in my head. I have tried to keep a diary and it doesn’t work for me. But this does. The mere fact that someone might hear my thoughts when I write them, whether they do or not I don’t know, actually really helps me let go of them. When I just wrote them in a diary all it did was make me dwell on them more. I don’t claim to be a good writer by any means and I am not looking for any kind of attention, they merely are a therapeutic release and help me cope better with situations. I hope this makes some kind of sense. So I have changed the name to “Julie’s story” so people are aware of what this page is before the begin to read it and can skip it if they want to. I wont be offended… PROMISE
Okay so my last blog ended at September with the refusal of another mandatory bail application. After a two week break in Ireland I returned to Hersonisos. It was almost the end of the season, the last few tourist and workers packing their bags and heading off. I really like this time of year in Hersonisos, it is when everybody takes a big deep sigh and relaxes after the madness of the summer season and within a couple of weeks the place turns into a ghost town with locals moving back to the villages or Heraklion and the main land.
I began looking for options for winter work here in Crete when Mark received another letter at the prison for a court date. We were told straight away by the lawyer that this was the closing of the book of evidence. The lawyer in Athens said it was a straight forward procedure that just needed Mark and his legal representatives signature and that really Mark’s local lawyer could handle it and he didn’t need to travel down from Athens. Mark and I weren’t happy about this and made our concerns known and the lawyer agreed to come down. And as it turned out Mark’s and my “gut feeling” had been right.
The day of court arrived and I gathered with all of my in-laws at the courthouse. About 20 minutes before the boys arrived at the court something was stirring among all the lawyers. There was lots of “flapping” and racing to get copies of papers and talking with family members. I was feeling too ill to really notice and as Mark’s sister-in-law tried to explain to me there was more robberies I just dismissed the idea until Mark’s lawyer pulled me aside to explain what was happening.
He said that the prosecution was adding three more robberies to the charges against all 8 men bringing the total to 10 armed robberies. When I asked why he couldn’t give me any reason, he said there was no reason given. One of these robberies occurred on the day Mark left Crete with his family members to go to a family wedding in October 2009 and the next on the morning of the 29th October 2009, the same day I flew back to Crete with Mark from Albanian. The third was for a date in May 2005, only a few months after Mark had arrived in Crete. I was furious. I honestly felt that because the police knew Marks exact movements as they had his passport and stamps, that all this was being set up around him. Earlier the police made claims in their report that they believed Mark to be the leader of this “criminal gang”. Again there was no explanation or evidence given for this but that because he had traveled between Crete and Ireland several times they theorized that he was trafficking the jewellery back to Ireland. I remember the first time we heard this, I was with my Mam and older brother and we had to just laugh, we had cried enough, and joked that we were considered a mafia family now, and what did they honestly think we had the jewellery buried in our back garden or something.. Its madness but it is what many people believed. I remember the boss of a local taverna telling me that all her neighbors in the local village believed the men were guilty and so was I. Even after the trial one crazy old woman came up to me shouting at me in Greek saying I had all her money.. NUTS!!
Anyway as I said I really now felt that they were trying to “stitch” Mark up and that maybe my fears for the trial were not just in my head! I expressed this to the lawyer but he never entertained the idea reassuring me that at the trial there were strict laws the Judges must adhere to.
The boys arrived outside in the police “wagon” however this time they were brought into the courthouse one by one, shackled and escorted by two armed police officers. Each man entered the small office with their legal representative for only a few minutes each and then brought back outside to the van. Once all 8 men had been seen all but Mark were escorted upstairs to the Judges chamber to sign the Book of Evidence to allow it to close. Marks representatives decided not to accept this and made a petition for an extension to provide evidence of his innocence for the last three robberies and was given a date to return to the court the following week to sign and close.
Mark was left in the van while all the other boys were upstairs. I went outside to the front of the courthouse and I heard “Jul, Jul” I looked around and then realised it was coming from inside the van, out of the tiny windows with grills Mark could see me. I couldn’t see him but I walked towards the window to talk to him. As I did I caught the eye of the officer standing at the van to make sure it was okay. I recognised this officer from the 12 month bail hearing when he had been extremely rude and heavy handed with all of our families. This time he told me I was okay to talk with Mark, just waved to stand back a bit from the van. I could see the crowds of people that had gathered outside the courthouse starring at me, talking about me but I didn’t care. This was the first time I had spoken to Mark this day and I needed to hear his voice, and his reassurance and I needed to know he was okay. We talked for nearly 10 minutes like this. I asked him to ask the police could I come into the van to talk but he knew better than to ask!! Funny thing is I was deadly serious!!
The rest of the boys arrived back, were bundled into the back of the van and it pulled away delivering the boys back to Alikarknossos Prison. All the rest of the boys were brought back to Neapoli Prison the next morning except Mark who had to wait there for 1 week as he was due back in court the following Monday. Over the next few days the lawyer prepared his report, he told me I was going to make a statement as well as Mark’s sister-in-law who was an alibi for the robbery at the start of October 2009, as he had spent all evening and the following day with her and her brother before traveling to Albanian.
The day of court arrived and I, along with some of my in-laws, met the local lawyer. I was promptly told that the Judge of Interrogation had refused our request to make a statement. I was furious after only 10 minutes of arriving at court and was already on the phone to the lawyer in Athens. Eventually it was agreed I could make the statement but not Mark’s sister-in-law. Mark sat on a chair in front of the office of the Judge of Interrogation. I remember standing alone, away from his family against the wall so I could catch his eye however the officers would position themselves so he could not see me. The chief in charge then shouted at me to move to the other side of the hall and that I was not allowed look at my husband. Its just so degrading and the only reason they do it is because they can, its a total power trip. I know not everyone is like it but my experience here is many of them are. This same officer was laughing when Mark’s representative came out of the office furious that the Judge had refused our request to make a statement. As if the whole thing was a joke. God for bid any of them ever end up in a situation like this. I know that this is there job and they can’t take things on board, but the least they can do is have some respect for people and a bit of empathy. I make eye contact with Mark because most of the time I don’t understand whats being said and he can reassure me in a second with just a look and I trust him. That’s why I want to look at my husband, not because we are plotting an escape or an attack or whatever else they think eye contact can do.. or is it just that it is a privilege that is taken from a couple… even though at the time Mark was in pre-trial detention, under the assumption innocent until proven guilty. WOW this really is turning into a rant!
Anyway Mark entered the office, spent 10 minutes in there and was brought up to sign the Book before being transported back to Alikarknossos Prison. He was then brought to Neapoli later that day.
I waited at the courthouse for a further 3 hours before eventually being called to make my statement. I had made a statement in November 2010 so this time I was ready and prepared. My first statement was horrendous. On three separate occasions the Judge put her bag on her shoulder to leave and asked was I finished, to which I responded “NO!” It was a total mess, as I talked she kept interrupting me telling me that what I was saying was not important. She picked and chose what she wanted out of my statement. She asked me questions like “how do you know he didn’t do it, because of his character?” Every time she spoke it was in an accusatory manner and everything I said she twisted it to suit herself. I felt like I was on trial. I left the office an absolute wreck and broke down outside on the bench. Two minutes later she marched straight past me, bag on her shoulder, looking at me as if I was a piece of dirt.
So here we were a year later, face to face again and I was SO ready for her this time. She began to start to ask me questions and I stopped the process as somebody had walked into the office and interrupted the scribe who was not recording what I was saying. I reminded the Judge of my last visit and said this time I would appreciate it that everything I said be recorded as I said it. The Judge and interpreter stopped and waited for the scribe. I began describing the events of October 2009. I am not sure if its because of the language barrier, but I honestly feel because the prosecutor did the same thing to me at trial, they try and tie you up, but I was so sure on the order of events there was no way that was going to happen. At one point the Judge accused me of changing what I was saying and I asked her to go back over what they had recorded and they had made a mistake in the recording because the assumed Marks brother lived in Albania. I used very clear short sentences not giving her an opportunity to step in and disrupt my flow. I finished by stating the dates of another trip to Albania I took with Mark in November 2009. She asked if there was anything else I’d like to add and I just said that we moved to Ireland on 9th December 2009 to start a new life. She then asked me why Mark had returned to Crete.
I explained I would answer that question but not for this statement as I had already made the statement about this the previous year, but that I wanted her to listen to it again because I felt she didn’t consider any of what I had said at the last statement. She agreed to listen and instructed the scribe not to write. I began describing the events of Dec 2009 to September 2010. The interpreter translated every word and all three women sat listening intently. If I hadn’t of known better you would have thought that the Judge actually believed me and felt some empathy. She asked what I was doing now and where I was living. I then proceeded to ask her what she believed to be true of this case to which she responded she wasn’t allowed answer that however she said the boys chances at trial didn’t look good, when I asked why she said the witness statements and DNA. This completely set me off. I challenged the fact that even a normal plain Jane like me could see the witness statements were unreliable and that there was NO evidence against Mark or the other boys what so ever. I challenged her on it taking 14 months to close the book of evidence instead of 4-6 months to which she responded by pointing to a pile of folders. I firmly pointed our that this was not my problem and being busy might be an acceptable justifications for a 1 or even 2 month delay but not 10 months. I could feel my blood boiling so I decided to leave while I had the upper hand, I thanked the women for listening to my story, we summed up the statement that I 100% believed that my husband was innocent and signed the statement and left with my head held high. I got 10 feet outside the office before I broke down with Marks two sister-in-laws.
Mark called about 10 minutes later to see how I got on, he couldn’t believe I had been in the office for well over an hour. I explained what happened and he told me he was proud of me for standing up to her but staying calm, no mean fete for me!! After an interview for a nanny position in Heraklion I visited Mark at the prison before heading home and resting for the day.
Okay so there we are the Book of Evidence finally closed in October 2009. Next time the pre-trial, or lack of… Talk soon, and thanks again to everyone this week who has worked hard and raising the numbers on the petition and sharing our story.
Choa for now x