Trial broadcasts to be banned

Television and radio coverage of all court proceedings will be banned under a new draft bill made public yesterday, which is expected to come into effect in time for the trial, early next year, of 18 men and one woman accused of participation in the November 17 terrorist group. Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos told a press conference in Athens that TV and radio coverage of trials would only be allowed if the court decides that broadcasting the proceedings would substantially serve the public interest. Even then, judges would have to secure the consent of the prosecution, the defendants, and third parties attending the trial as civil claimants. Offenders would face up to three years’ imprisonment, and fines of 20,000-200,000 euros. It is unclear whether photographers will still be allowed to cover trials. «Television cameras have an emotional effect on everyone involved in the trial, from judge to witness,» Petsalnikos said. «The ban would not have an adverse effect on the public nature of court sessions, a prerequisite for a fair trial, as access to courtrooms will remain free.» Under a nine-year-old law that was generally ignored until this autumn, TV crews and photographers are not allowed to take footage or shots of crime suspects before their conviction unless the suspects agree. The new bill also changes the selection process for judges in particularly important cases, such as the N17 trial which is expected to start in March. Judges will be drawn by lot from among a restricted pool of appeals court judges selected in advance by their peers. And the bill restricts suspects’ ability to delay proceedings by refusing to be represented by lawyers appointed by the court. Defendants will be allowed to do so once, and only if the reason is judged significant.

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