15. The pre-trial… or, rather, the lack thereof!

7th May 2012

Hi everyone, So sorry that its been so long since I’ve written a blog. It has been manic over the past few weeks. I arrived back in Crete on Thursday of this week and went to see Mark on Friday, after being in Ireland for 2 weeks. I am glad to report he is looking and feeling a lot better at the moment. He is starting to get back into his routine of exercising and is feeling better in himself. We had a really nice visit today, talked about us growing old in the village he grew up in, re-decorating the house he grew up in, and how our kids will have lots of freedom to play, and we will go for walks by the river, and in winter how we will all sit in front of the open fire. And have cattle, chickens and grow our own vegetables!!! LOL kinda sad eh!! but sure it keeps us going!!

I am sure if you read these you have also heard or seen some of the publicity our case is receiving. Thanks to everyone who is helping to spread our story. We have also received some more support from MEP’s and local TD’s however as of yet nothing substantial has happened with the Irish government supporting our case. We received another letter from the Irish Embassy in Athens refusing to support us as Mark is not an Irish citizen and quite an appalling letter from the PA of the Minister for European Affairs reiterating the stance of the Embassy and refusing our request to meet with Ms. Creighton. So I am asking again for people to support our letter writing campaign and petition to ensure our voices are heard in the Government. After receiving both those emails on Friday evening, I have not yet picked myself back up. I was infuriated reading them and I still am 3 days later. I just want to scream and shout at how ridiculous this situation is and go take my husband home because it is so simple and clear what has happened I just cannot comprehend why it just can’t be resolved.. I do apologise I am having a 5 year old moment for the past 3 days and this all makes sense in my head..

Anyway I left off at the close of the book of evidence in my last blog. At this point Mark’s lawyer was given 10 days to submit his defense memorandum. We had waited 14 months for this date. On a Tuesday morning in early November Mark received a notice at the prison for a date for his trial which was to be on the 18th January 2012. All charges, 10 armed robberies and the 12 car thefts were brought forward for all 8 men. Mark called his lawyer who explained this couldn’t be right as he had only submitted the defense memorandum the previous afternoon. There was no way they could have considered it, decided on the charges, processed it at the court, transported it to the prison, where it had to be processed before being presented to Mark in this time frame. It soon became clear that the decision on the charges and the date for trial was made before the Chief Judge received Mark’s defense memorandum, therefore effectively skipping this whole procedure. The lawyer explained that the justification they received for such an act was that the prosecutor was under pressure for time to hear the case before the 18 months deadline was reached as they would have to release them at this point.

Again both myself and my family were furious at the actions of the court however we were assured, even though it was not right it was in fact legal. I beg to differ but I am not a lawyer so what can I do. I expressed my concerns to the lawyer again at this stage, that why was he so sure the courts would behave in a legal manner at the trial if they again failed to follow their own procedure and yet again I was assured that the trial was an open forum. The lawyer still maintained the actions of the court were legal and we had no right to challenge their behavior.

At this stage I packed up my apartment and moved back to Ireland to help my parents in their business over the Christmas period. Mark also turned 26 in November which was difficult, a second birthday behind bars. Christmas again was miserable, but this year we had a bit of hope that this nightmare was going to end very shortly.

I traveled back to Crete 10 days before the trial and stayed with my brother-in-law and his family. Everybody was excited and anxious and Mark, Andreas and Martin were very stressed. They weren’t sleeping very well and all had lost weight. Three days after I arrived all hell broke loose when Mark’s eldest brother returned from the office of another lawyer, who was representing some of the other men, with a DNA report that said Mark’s DNA was found on a pair of pink rubber gloves, as well as DNA from one of the other men found on a balaclava. The two items were supposedly found in a Jeep found abandoned in a town were one of the robberies took place. We faxed a copy of the report to Mark’s lawyer in Athens and my father spoke to him that day. We were all so confused and scared and the only thing we were sure was that the robbery that these gloves were being linked to Mark was in Ireland for. The lawyer called me later that day and I was absolutely furious with him. Firstly I could not believe this was allowed to happen a week before we were to go to trial. Secondly why he didn’t know about it, why another lawyer had to give it to us. And finally where on earth did this come from. He didn’t have any answers for me and again assured me the actions of the court were legal.

On the 16th of January my Mam and Dad arrived in Crete for the trial. The lawyer arrived the next morning. I left my parents to sleep in the hotel while I collected him. I dropped him to the courthouse and he agreed to meet me and my parents later. When he met with us he finally admitted that this last act of the court was illegal, and that documentation should not be included after the close of the book of evidence. Also the court is obliged to notify a defendant of such evidence, which they failed to do even though Mark’s local lawyer visited the Judge of Interrogation weekly requesting any information. He said he needed to visit the court to retrieve more documentation relating to the DNA report and the items in question. We agreed to meet him later that evening. When we met him over dinner that evening he was hyper. He had spent hours sifting through the court documents only to discover that on the retrieval report for the car where the items where “found” there was no mention of the items being recovered. Also of almost 100 samples retrieved from the crimes scenes these two items were the ONLY 2 ITEMS MISSING THEIR SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION verifying who, how,where they were found. Finally he said that in the first DNA report received in December 2010 these two items came back negative for traces of Mark and the other man’s DNA and some how a year later this report appeared. The lawyer was literally bouncing off the chair as he explained all this. It was the night before the trial and he turned to me and said, “I now believe your theory of conspiracy is true”. Hallelujah I thought finally you get it, but tomorrow was the trial. He explained he still felt the best way to approach this report was that Mark was not in Crete at the time of the robbery. He also prepared a lengthy document using scientific research to describe how traces of DNA can be found on items years after they were used and that it was not a reliable source of evidence to be considered solely. I was relieved at this point as I finally felt for the first time he believed me, believed in my experience here in Crete, believed in my fears and he was so sure he was going to smash this in court. There was just no other alternative.

I later collected my sister from the airport and we both stayed with my parents in the hotel in Heraklion. None of us slept much that night as we prepared for the events that were to follow the next day.

So I finally get to the point of the trial, only took four months, mind you I was faster that the courts here!! So next time I’l start from Thursday the 18th January 2012. Thanks everyone for reading. And just a reminder to please support the petition and letter writing campaign.

Choa x

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