Unprecedented security measures, and phone, camera restrictions

Today, the biggest trial in Greece since the fall of the dictatorship gets under way as 19 alleged members of the November 17 terrorist group face proceedings expected to last from four to six months. Security measures inside and outside Korydallos Prison, where the trial is to take place and where the suspects are being held, are unprecedented. Access to the courtroom, apart from those directly involved in the trial, is restricted to about 120 accredited journalists and some 170 members of the public who have been able to obtain entry. The press will be sitting behind the 2-meter-high bulletproof glass cubicle, in use for the first time in a Greek courtroom, where the 19 accused are to be seated. Guarded by 25 police officers, the cubicle is open on the side facing the judges. Two cameras will be recording the entire proceedings, which will be displayed on a video wall in the pressroom, which has facilities for 250 journalists. To the left and right of the defendants are 60 seats for the 30 defense attorneys and 70 seats for the lawyers for the over 80 civil claimants. Coverage of the trial Throughout last week, both attorneys and journalists, as well as political groups, were lodging strong protests against the prohibition of television cameras, tape recorders, mobile telephones and other electronic equipment from the courtroom. These protests are expected to continue today in court, as the government has left such decisions up to the court. On Friday, the Journalists’ Union of Athens Daily Newspapers (ESIEA) met with accredited journalists to discuss the restrictions. Panos Sombolos, ESIEA’s president, telephoned Press Minister Christos Protopappas but no decision was reached. Accredited journalists are likely to either abstain from the proceedings or stage a protest meeting outside the prison in order to bring pressure to bear for more satisfactory conditions. Tape recorders As for the use of tape recorders, originally ruled out, the press minister claims the government has not objected, but has left the decision up to the court. Protopappas said that the ban on mobile phones in and around the courtroom was mandatory to prevent the broadcast of the proceedings from the video wall in the press center. ESIEA countered that there was little chance of this occurring, as the law provided for a 200,000-euro fine and the expulsion of the particular news media from the court. «No one would risk that,» said Sombolos. The 13 direct telephone lines available for the use of the news media are not enough, given the number of journalists and the ban on mobile phones. Protopappas said that more direct lines would be made available, but ESIEA board member Dimitris Tsalapatis said that, a few days ago, Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos had claimed the telephone lines were «sufficient for television and radio. The newspapers can wait.» The only issue that has effectively been solved is the availability of the court transcripts to the media every three hours via the Press Ministry.

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