6. A blurred two weeks Pt.2

1st March 2012

Hi guys, just to let you know I have updated blog five a little on the advice of my Dad. So this is the second part of that two weeks in Greece.

The next morning, after the decision to remand Mark and the other 7 men in custody I woke up and for a split second thought I had just been having a horrible nightmare. Then reality hit again and so did the tears. I dragged myself out of bed and had a shower before heading in on my own to see Mark at the police station. When I got there I had to wait almost 30 minutes because the boys were upstairs having their photographs (mugshots) taken. While waiting in the corridor a short stumpy police officer walked past me and took me in. He asked me, very politely, why I was there. I explained that  my husband had been arrested the previous week and automatically he knew who I was. The expression on his face changed to one of sympathy and almost apologetic. Strangely this was comforting at the time and restored my faith in humanity (slightly) ! This visit with Mark was short and emotional. We talked about what I would do now and Mark wanted me to return home and continue with our business. I had different ideas.

When I returned to the apartment I was faced with the same question again from my brother and mother. We went for a coffee and my brother booked his flight home for the next morning. My mother was desperate to get off the island but it was the last thing I wanted to do at this point however reluctantly they persuaded me to book our tickets for the following Wednesday. I was devastated and could barely talk to them after booking it. Later that afternoon I got a panicked call from Mark saying they were being moved. He didn’t know were he was going, how far away it was, if he would be able to call nothing… again his voice was filled with terror. It was excruciating and my heart just broke into a million pieces again. I quickly called the lawyer in Heraklion telling him about the call I had just received and he informed me where they were being moved and of the visiting days. Later that evening Mark called and said we could come see them in the morning between 8am and 11am.

The next day Mark’s brother Victor collected myself and my Mam to go to the prison where the 8 men were being held. As we approached my stomach churned as I saw the towers. As we got closer the imposing presence of the barbed-wire rolls and metal doors and barred windows all made me want to run away and hide. This wasn’t supposed to be happening to me, my husband or our families. We were hard working honest people. We weren’t suppose to even know about these kinds of places but as we entered the front entrance it became all too apparent that this actually WAS happening and there was nothing any of us could do about it.

As we entered the first big metal door we were all ushered inside and the prison officer closed the door behind us. As the huge bolt goes across it makes that crazy clanking sound you hear in movies, sending shivers down your spine. Once inside, the officer takes everyone’s passport, phones and bags. She then unlocked the next gate and ushers everybody through. We were directed to a small narrow room to the right. Against one wall was an old style wooden bench and no more that a meter in front of you is, for all the world like a large window sill with six phones. In front of the sill is dirty old glass with metal bars on the other side. This first day the room was packed with visitors and the other side with inmates. The officer made an announcement for Marku Mark, Andreas and Martin επισκέπτες (visiting).

A minute or so later the big metal door on the other side of the glass opened and a petrified Mark appeared behind the glass. I spoke with Mark and he was in shock. He told me he had seen the doctor who had given him drops for his eyes and cream for his cuts. He told me when they arrived at the prison the day before they were strip searched and sent to the hospital for an x ray. He said the outdoor space was ok, it looked like an old run down school yard but he said inside was horrible, his exact words describing were he had slept the night before and the toilets were “they are fucked up”! For the first month Mark and the other boys had to share beds as there was not enough.  He begged me to help get him out of the place. At times he got upset but for the most part he kept it together for my sake.

As we left the prison, we left money for the boys and signed it into a big book at the front desk. The boys would be issued their “plastic money” later. I asked the female officer, who at a later date will be known as the elephant and known for being ignorant and a pain in the B-hind, about the visiting times and days. As I was speaking in English and very upset she asked another woman, the wife of another inmate who was Greek-American to explain how the system worked.

Outside the prison entrance, this woman, Cathy explained about visiting hours and days, private visits and other useful information to be aware of. When I think back about it, it was almost like God had sent her to help me, my mother, Victor and Mark’s sister Bardha through that first visit. We went for a coffee with her and understandably everyone was devastated that morning however she reassured me and mother in English and Mark’s family in Greek exactly what life would be like for the boys inside. She reassured us all that we would all get through this. It still makes me smile some of the things she came out with…. She said “They will eat, sleep, drink and crap inside… and that they will get used to it. They will figure out how to fill their days, probably gain weight but inevitably adapt to the situation”. I spoke to Mark a few times later that day, then slept for the rest of the day.

The next day we rang Leonidas, Marks present lawyer to fill him in on what had happened. A distant relative of mine lives in Athens and is married to a Greek man. When this nightmare began my aunt called her and straight away she put me in contact with a lawyer in Athens that she trusted. As I said below, during the week prior to the court interrogation he called regularly offering advise. I asked him to come represent Mark however he said I needed a local lawyer at this stage of the proceedings. That Saturday I called him to let him know what had happened and he was furious with me. The one major issue he kept emphasizing was that Mark needed to be represented independently of the group. He offered the name of a lawyer and we went to visit him. I also visited the other lawyer that had arrived at the police station the day after the boys arrest. The second scared us by saying if we took Mark separate from the group that he would be sentenced to 20 years in prison. I tried to relay all this to Mark through two minute conversations on the phone or through glass cubicles. In the end we stayed with the same lawyer as everyone else. We later discovered at how disastrous a decision this was. Anyway Leonidas was furious with us and I could not speak to him so I passed the phone to my Mam. While she spoke to him I began to have a panic attack and kept repeating “I want him to come to Crete, I want him to come to Crete”. He agreed and booked a flight to arrive that Tuesday. He urged us to postpone our flights from Wednesday until at least Saturday.

In the two days he was down he spoke with me about my life with Mark, spoke to my mother, spoke with Mark for hours, spoke to Marks colleagues and friends and family. We found out more in these two days about the accusations, what had happened in the court the previous week, what all the other lawyers should have done about the allegations of torture, how they had failed Mark during his interview and afterwards.  He arranged for us to try make a statement with the Judge of Interrogation however this was postponed to a later date. He laid out what we were looking at now that we had entered the system. He told us that in approximately 6months the book of evidence should close and we would have a “pre trail” the point at which we would be able to offer a defense and both sides were weighed up to decide what or if any charges would be brought to trial. He expected it to go to trial approximately in 12 months, September 2011. Even at this early stage he was confident that they had no evidence against Mark. I argued that if it was that obvious at this stage why was he still in prison, to which he responded “they only need suspicion, not evidence at this stage” (this was to become one of my most hated phrases!! Along with  ”Its nobodies job to look at the evidence now” or “its not a question of innocence or guilt at this stage its a question of being a flight risk” GGRRRRGGRRRRRRRR

Anyway he left us on the Wednesday with a lot more hope. He sent us home with a list of homework and told us to be patient and wait for the DNA results which could take anywhere from 12 weeks to 12 months. After we received these results we would be in a better position to figure out our next move. I visited Mark two more times that week before I left Crete with my mother. Again I think god was looking out for us on this trip, or else he was playing a sick joke.. either way it got us through the journey. On the long flight from Athens to London I was stuck in the middle between my mum and a big “smelly” French Man that kept picking his nose. My mum could not stop laughing at him but I couldn’t lift my head without feeling sick with the smell of BO and I think garlic. My mam kept saying “look he’s picking his nose now” and I’m so sure he heard her, subtlety is not her fortieth! And to top it off the inflight movie was “the bounty hunter”… but in a weird way it, along with the wine, helped as we both laughed and cried our way home to my dad in Dublin airport.

Ok that’s it for tonight, check in again soon. Oh just a note every time I do one of these I go back over the previous one and sometimes add things I have forgotten so if you have been following maybe every now and then just glance back over them to get the extra bits. Thanx again for the support

Naten e mire