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Free the #Samos 2

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

N. and Hasan are free! The trial against both that took place on May 18th 2022 should never have happened but through a powerful legal defense (including HRLP's lawyers), N. was acquitted of all charges and Hasan was given a suspended sentence of 1 year and 5 months (meaning he will never have to go to prison).

N., a young father, was charged with the drowning of his 6-year-old son during a shipwreck. He was on trial together with his co-passenger Hasan who was facing life imprisonment for steering the boat.

On the night of 7 November 2020, N. and Hasan tried to reach Greece from Turkey on a rubber boat together with 22 other people. Among the passengers were N.’s 6-year-old son and the sister, brother and disabled mother of Hasan. The families had fled Afghanistan and were seeking safety and a better life in Europe. Off the Greek island of Samos, the boat became distressed, hit against the cliffs and capsized. All passengers went overboard. Although the Greek Coast Guard was notified about the emergency, it took them several hours to arrive at the scene. However, they did not carry out a rescue. Survivors testified that they twice saw a coast guard boat approach but it did not rescue them. In the morning hours of the next day, N.’s little boy and a 9-month-pregnant woman were found on the rocks. Luckily, the woman survived and gave birth to her child three days later. For N.’s son, all help had come too late.

The tomb of N.'s son, buried in Samos

Despite being devastated by the death of his only child – and his own near drowning moments before – 25-year- old N. was arrested. Only after pressure by his lawyer (HRLP's lawyer, Dimitrios Choulis) and the UNHCR did the police let N. see his son and identify the lifeless body. He was put in pre-trial detention and was the first asylum seeker ever to be charged with “endangering the life of his child”, facing up to ten years imprisonment.

N.: “They were really cruel to me. I lost my son. He drowned in the water. On top of that, they arrested me in that horrible situation and put me in prison. They say it is the law. This cannot be the law. This is inhumane. This must be illegal. Are they really going to blame me for the death of my son? He was everything I had. I essentially came here for my son.”

Dimitrios Choulis, lawyer: “In Greece of 2020, when we have the policy of systematic push-backs, you put one more obstacle for asylum seekers: even if you make it here, we will criminalize you. As an asylum seeker, what can he do? Travel here and leave his child alone in Turkey until the end of the procedure?”

23-year-old Hasan was also arrested. At some point during the journey he steered the boat. Because of this he is charged with the “transportation of 24 third-country nationals into Greek territory without permission” (smuggling), with the aggravating circumstances of “endangering the lives of 23“ and “causing the death of one” – N.’s son. He is facing a life sentence for the death of one person plus a further 10 years imprisonment per transported person, amounting to 230 years plus life imprisonment.

The cemetery where N.'s son was buried in Samos

While N.’s case constitutes the first of its kind, the “smuggling” charges brought against Hasan are not an isolated incident but typical of another aspect of Europe’s policy of deterrence.

Dimitris Choulis, lawyer: “By doing this, we criminalize asylum seekers that have no alternative. There is a part during the journey where the only thing they can do is to drive the boat in order to save their lives.”

Hasan: “We are just migrants and when the migrants want to come, the smugglers won’t come. They will force the migrants to bring the boat to its destination themselves, whether they know how to drive a boat or not.”

Hasan was charged despite other passengers, including N., stating that Hasan simply took the wheel because someone had to.

N.: “No matter how many times you repeat it, it was not the driver’s fault. He is just a migrant and his family was also there, he didn’t do anything wrong, he is not to be blamed. I just ask for this, I want this person to be released.”

Hasan: “This must end. I am the caretaker of my family and I have to support them, because my mother is paralyzed, I have a sister that is very young and my brother has psychological problems. I really need to be with them. Their only caretaker is me. And now, because of this boat driver story I just don’t know what I should do.”

The entire HRLP team is delighted to have been able to support and represent N. and Hasan at their trial, and to know that they will not be imprisoned but will finally be able to start a new life in Europe.

You can watch the campaign video made before the trial:

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