The Greek government has pushed through a raft of changes to anti-terror laws, removing exceptions for political and trade union activity, and allowing completely anonymous witnesses.
The government has completely removed the protective mechanisms within the previous Anti-Terrorism law, mechanisms which protected political and Trade union activity, even those including violence, from criminal charges of “terrorist acts”...In this way even minor offences (such as property damage, bodily damage, disruption of transport, etc) carried out by an organized team of demonstrators can be arbitrarily characterised as terrorist activity...According to new amendments to the secret Anti-Terrorism law, it is no longer compulsory for a witness to reveal his identity to the courtroom, even if it is asked by those directly affected, i.e. the accused!
These are translations of two articles published in the mainstream leftist newspaper Eleftherotypia. They are not great articles in that they are somewhat unclear but they give a fairly good picture of the situation.
Corrections of the translation are welcome, so are questions if anything is unclear.
Terrorist Action and demonstrations
By Christos Zervas 22.09.2010
During the summer holidays, secretly and without any particular explanation, the government completely removed the protective mechanisms within the previous Anti-Terrorism law, mechanisms which protected political and Trade union activity, even those including violence, from criminal charges of “terrorist acts”.
Simultaneously the law now punishes more severely (with 10 years imprisonment) anyone who gives “substantial” information to terrorist organizations to facilitate their work, or gives them material or “immaterial” support even if the “terrorist acts” were not finally carried out.
With these changes, the prosecuting authorities are basically given a free hand. In this way even minor offences (such as property damage, bodily damage, disruption of transport, etc) carried out by an organized team of demonstrators can be arbitrarily characterised as terrorist activity.
It is now sufficient, according to the legal definition of terrorism, to simply judge that the accused intend to seriously harm a country or an international organization, to seriously intimidate the populace, or to illegally force the state or an international organization into doing or not doing something.
But why did the government go ahead with the abolition of these protective mechanisms in such a hurry and so silently? Some legal experts reply that the timing is no coincidence, given the current critical economic situation and the conditions of social conflict, which many are anticipating. The government looks like it is taking measures in advance, they add.
On the other hand, government sources say that all the changes are in accordance with the Constitution.
What is most worrying, though, is that these serious changes, which concern basic rights and freedoms, were made by the summer section and not by the plenary session of Parliament.
The new regulation, article 187A of the Penal Code, included in the law for the ratification of conventions of the UN against organized crime, was passed at the end of August and was made public the day before yesterday.
This basic and secret alteration abolishes paragraph 8 of the previous article, according to which the carrying out of certain offenses (felonies and less serious offenses) did not constitute “terrorist activity” if they aimed towards the protection of the democratic state, if they constituted action in favor of freedom, or if they were aimed at the exercising of basic individual, political and Trade union freedoms, as set down in the Constitution and in the European Agreement on Human Rights.
This regulation existed in the preamble to the European decision and was suggested by the creator of the Anti-Terrorism law, Michalis Stathopoulos. It was the legal guarantee that neither political beliefs nor open political and Trade union activity would be prosecuted.
Even then, all organizations for the rights of individuals had expressed their fears that something like this might happen. In Greece, anyway, demonstrators have already been tried for participation in a terrorist organization, despite the existence of the older protective mechanism.
There is also a favorable change, which punishes those who participate in a terrorist organization which was set up for the purpose of committing only minor offenses with a penalty of 1-6 years. It is however necessary for something like that to be proved.
As for the threat of 10 year sentences to anyone who gives essential information to terrorists, Parliament's scientific committee expressed reservations, noting the problem of vagueness and an over-extended widening of what is defined as deserving punishment.
Witnesses with hoods!
By Christos Zervas 23.09.2010
The government which claims to be transparent enforces a system of “hooded” witnesses at trials for terrorism and organized crime. In the same clandestine conspiratorial way which left every political, social and Trade union activity open to criminal prosecution for terrorism, it now “legalizes” the testimonies of anonymous witnesses in the courts!
According to new amendments to the secret Anti-Terrorism law, it is no longer compulsory for a witness to reveal his identity to the courtroom, even if it is asked by those directly affected, i.e. the accused!
The former order, which has now been abolished, forced the court to demand that the identity of an anonymous witness be revealed if asked by the district attorney or one of the accused. With the secret Anti-Terrorism law the court, in which the the request to reveal a witness's identity is made, can give its consent either in favor or against.
In other words, it is up to the discretion of judges to enforce the use of anonymous witnesses if they consider it necessary, as long as they somehow explain the reasoning behind this decision.
Of course, the order which prohibits the sentencing of the accused with only the testimony of one anonymous witness remains in effect. However, that does not secure the rights of the defendants, who are exposed to the accusations of people who they do not know and therefore cannot refute their claims fully. In any case, judicial experience up till today has shown how even the suspicion of another piece of evidence can be combined with the statements of "ghost-witnesses" and lead to long jail terms.
The judicial use of statements given by anonymous witnesses has been a constant demand of the American security services, as well as their European colleagues, who have pressured for testimony by “anonymous informants” (i.e. agents of the secret services!) to be considered proof.
Within the same laws what has also changed is the established system for witness protection, as protected witnesses can now be moved outside Greece! The option of being moved to other countries has been added to the choices of protection (change of identity, moving from one's job, and change of residence).
In addition, a new department has been formed which assumes responsibility for carrying out the measures of protection. It is determined by mutual agreement of the Ministers of Economics, Justice, Labour, Health, Education and the “Protection of the Citizen”.
This orgy of secret changes to the Anti-Terrorism law, made during the holidays by the reduced summer section of Parliament, through which the basic rights of citizens are attacked, were made without M.P.s realizing their real scope. Certain points of the changes were not even mentioned in the accompanying essay which lists the reasoning behind the changes.
The abolition of the order which secured that certain offenses, which aim at the protection of the democratic state or the application of basic individual, political and union rights, did not constitute terrorist activity, was carried out without any apparent reason or explanation.
Even the arguments made to refute claims against the government, which the government spokesman G. Petalotis tried to articulate, characterizing as “baseless” things that had been written about Trade Unions, at the end of the day simply confirm the unquestionable reality. He was on another wavelength, trying to excuse the inexcusable; he said, among other things, that “there is nothing wrong with Trade Unionism” and that “the government respects the Greek people, the Greek citizen and the forms through which he expresses himself; it is not afraid of Trade Unionism, but seeks dialogue; the issue of negotiation is a major aspect of democracy.”
But why has this so “transparent” government not negotiated these specific changes to the “Prevention of Terrorism" law in an open dialogue with its citizens, as they did with their other laws, but instead passed it secretly and conspiratorially, in the middle of the summer?