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  • Writer's pictureHRLP Board

PAROS 3: driving a boat is not a crime

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

On 05 May 2022, the trial against the #Paros3 took place on the Greek island of Syros, Dimitris Choulis, one of HRLP’s lawyer and Alexandros Gergoulis, HRLP’s partner were the lawyers representing the accused, Khiraldin, Mohamad and Abdallah.

The charges against them stemmed from a shipwreck that took place on Christmas Eve 2021. The three men had been piloting a boat with around 80 people attempting to make the journey from the Turkish coast to Italy. The overcrowded boat ran into trouble near the Greek island of Paros and capsized – 18 people drowned. The smugglers responsible for organizing the trip and overloading the boat were out of reach in Turkey. But Greek police arrested Abdallah, Kheiraldin, and Mohamad and prosecuted them as smugglers.

In the first instance, the main objective of the defense was to prevent the defendants from receiving life sentences. Although both the prosecution and the judges acknowledged that the three defendants, were not the smugglers or had acted for profit, nor were they to blame for the 18 people who lost their lives, the three fathers were nevertheless convicted of smuggling causing death and sentenced to 187 years' imprisonment for the 'captain' and 126 years for each of the two 'assistants'. The three men were detained in Chios prison for a year and a half.

The Appeal trial took place in front of the court of Appeal of Syros on June 8th, 2023. The main objective was for the charges against the defendants to be changed from smuggling to facilitating. The lawyers were successful and the three defendants were convicted of facilitating the illegal entry of third country nationals, instead of smuggling. Each one of them was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment. As they have already served one and a half years, they will be eligible for parole in 6 months.

It is worth mentioning that in addition to being great news for the defendants, this decision sets an important precedent as the lawyers managed to change the accusations from smuggling to charges of facilitating the illegal entry of third country nationals, in a case in which the defendants had actually confessed that they drove the boat.

This decision is good news, but we must not forget that the three defendants will have spent two years in prison in Greece while traveling to Europe to seek refuge. As our lawyer, Dimitris Choulis, said,

It is extremely worrying that I have three innocent people on trial and everyone is happy because they only have to sit in prison for 'a bit'.

And Alexandros Georgoulis to complete:

Everyone understands that the EU legal framework needs to change and adapt to the current circumstances. We cannot have refugees sentenced in hundreds of years for steering a boat. #Paros3 was the perfect example.

Driving a boat is not a crime.

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