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After 2 years in prison, the Court found that Greece had no jurisdiction to prosecute Chelik Memet.

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

On December 7th, 2023, Dimitris Choulis and Alexandros Georgoulis, lawyers of the Human Rights Legal Project represented Chelik Memet, before the Five Members Court of Appeal second instance of Chania, in Crete. After spending more than two years in prison because he was accused of smuggling and illegally entering Greece, the Court found that Greece had no jurisdiction to prosecute Chelik for the first accusation and acquitted him of the charges of illegal entry. 






Chelik Memet was referred to the Human Rights Legal Project on August 25, 2022, by the Kurdish Cultural Center of Athens. Chelik is a Turkish Kurdish national. He was forced to flee Turkey where he was persecuted on political grounds. Chelik’s family is associated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and he was himself a member of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP). He was imprisoned in Turkey for 9 months because of his political activities. 


Chelik left Turkey by boat on September 23rd, 2021. The boat was heading toward Italy. The passengers alerted the organization Alarm Phone, which immediately alarmed the Hellenic, Maltese and Italian Coast Guards. More than 24 hours after the alert was sent, the boat was finally rescued by an oil tanker, which followed the instructions of the Hellenic Coast Guards and brought the 154 passengers to Crete. 


During the transfer of the passengers to the oil tanker, one pregnant woman drowned after falling into the water. 

 

Chelik had spent the trip in the lower deck of the boat with the other passengers. He took videos of the event because he thought that it would make him safer and that recording the events would prevent the authorities from pushing them back to Turkey. 


He was arrested on September 26th, 2021, shortly after the police took the testimonies of other passengers of the same boat. The police had already arrested the captain and two Afghan men who had allegedly taken money in Turkey. The Greek authorities accused Chelik of being a smuggler solely because he was taking videos with his phone. 


The court decided to pre-detain Chelik before his trial. The first instance trial took place on the 6 of September 2022 in Chania. HRLP’s lawyers, Dimitris Choulis and Alexandros Georgoulis, argued that Greece had no jurisdiction ratione loci [jurisdiction based on geographical competence] to prosecute the defendant as the shipwreck took place in international waters, 90 nautical miles from Crete, outside of Greek territorial waters. 


The same argument was previously held in the Supreme Court decision 2070/2017. 


The Court adjourned for one week and re-convened on the 13 of September. The Court rejected the objections and decided that it had jurisdiction and could therefore try Chelik. It must be noted that the Public Prosecutor argued that the defendant should be found not guilty. The Prosecutor did not question the jurisdiction of the court but argued that, given the facts of the case, the Court should conclude Chelik's innocence. 


However, the Court found the defendant guilty under article 30 paragraph 1 (d) of Law 4251/2014, for smuggling, as part of a criminal organization, for a transfer of third country nationals during which a death occurred. Pursuant to the law, the penalty is one life sentence for each passenger of the boat. Chelik was sentenced to 155 years of prison


The appeal trial took place on December 7th, 2023, more than 2 years after Chelik’s arrest, before the Five Members Court of Appeal of Chania, Crete. Dimitris Choulis and Alexandros Georgoulis objected again to the competence of the court. They used the exact same argument as they did during the first instance. 


The Court accepted the objections and found that it didn’t have jurisdiction to try Chelik on the smuggling charges. They also acquitted him of the charge of illegal entry. 


Chelik spent more than two years behind bars because the Greek authorities accused and later convicted him of a crime that he had not committed and that they had no competence to prosecute. Chelik spent more than two years behind bars because in his search for protection, he became yet another victim of the Greek authorities’ criminalization policy. 


European countries increasingly criminalize asylum seekers to deter people from coming to their countries to apply for international protection. Criminalization is a direct attack on the fundamental right to seek asylum and therefore on principles of humanity and dignity. 


To know more about the case you can read the article from the Press Project.

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