NEWS

Backlog in courts may lead to release of suspects from pretrial custody

A growing backlog in the country’s courts is likely to result in a large number of potentially dangerous suspects being released from pretrial custody, according to the head of the national union of judges and prosecutors.

Briefing a parliamentary committee on Wednesday, Vassiliki Thanou warned that suspects completing the 18-month maximum mandated period in custody pending trial are likely to be released in the coming months as a deepening backlog means their cases are unlikely to come to trial in the next year.

According to data submitted by Thanou in Parliament, the number of cases submitted to Greek magistrates more than doubled between 2008 and 2010, from 4,000 to 8,500. Meanwhile more than half a million cases are already pending in the country’s courts, Thanou said, noting that the backlog is also depriving the state of much-needed revenue. Pending trials for tax evasion alone could raise 1.5 billion euros if they were to proceed, she said.

Although Thanou did not specify which suspects are likely to benefit from early release from custody, she was broadly understood to be referring to lawmakers of the neofascist Golden Dawn who have been detained as part of an investigation into whether the party operated as a criminal organization as well as suspected members of guerrilla groups, notably Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire. Concerns about the release of members of the latter group are particularly pressing following reports that November 17 convict Christodoulos Xeros met regularly with them at Korydallos Prison before he absconded during a furlough earlier this month.

Police have stepped up a search for the 55-year-old convict after he appeared in an online video last week threatening to return to terrorist activity in protest at the social repercussions of an ongoing austerity drive in Greece.

Police arrested four suspects on Wednesday following raids on apartments in Athens and Thessaloniki that turned up flares, knives and a sledgehammer. One suspect was arrested in the capital and the other three in the northern port city, bringing to nine the number of people detained in connection with the manhunt.

Online