Trial of November 17 suspects begins amid protests from lawyers and journalists’ union

The trial of the November 17 suspects, which starts today in Korydallos Prison, begins with friction between the defense attorneys and the counsel for the victims and their families (civil claimants) over issues such as whether the offenses being tried are political or common crimes, the jurisdiction of the court over these particular crimes and as to whether television cameras should be allowed in court. The manner in which the judges have been assigned to the court is also under dispute. As the trial opens, the defense attorneys will be raising all of these issues and the civil claimants will be putting forward their case. Meanwhile, the latter have raised no objections to the defense teams’ request for the removal of the glass partition separating them from their clients. The civil claimants say this is up to the court to decide. The civil claimants maintain that the accused have been charged with crimes of the common penal code. «Political crimes are those which are committed against the State’s authority and are aimed at overturning the established order. This does not apply in this case,» claims Sakis Kehayioglou, attorney representing a survivor of a November 17 attack, Giorgos Petsos. Kehayioglou invoked «a number of recent, but also past, rulings by the Supreme Court» that validate this view. However, the defense attorneys disagree. «The (November 17) organization’s actions are purely political, therefore, so are the perpetrators’ motives. The crimes the accused have been charged with are political,» claims Ioanna Kourtovik, acting for defendants Dimitris Koufodinas and Angeliki Sotiropoulou. Then there is the issue of the specific court’s jurisdiction to try to the crimes. «Murder charges can only be judged by the mixed court (judges and jurors) or an appeals court,» claims Rania Karabliani, who is defending Theologos Psaradellis. Ioannis Stamoulis, acting for Pavlos Serifis, Iraklis Kostaris and Constantinos Karatsolis claims that «according to Article 97, Paragraph 1 of the Constitution, felonies and political crimes are judged by the mixed courts.» On the other hand, the civil claimants believe that the three-member criminal appeals court is the appropriate one for this case. «The new (counterterrorism) law is clear on this issue. The three-member appeals court is the appropriate authority for the first hearing, and then the five-member appeals court for the appeal,» according to Giorgos Mavros, who is representing the family of victim Pantelis Petrou. The defense attorneys are in favor of media coverage for the trial. «Making the proceedings public is ratified by the Constitution and any attempt to restrict that is unconstitutional,» claims Nikos Protekdikos, defending Constantinos Telios. Counsel for civil claimants is divided on the issue. «I am against live or taped television coverage of the trial,» said T. Yiannidis, representing the Bakoyiannis, Vranopoulos, Vardinoyiannis, Roussetis, Peratikos and Momferatos families. Some of the defense counsels have raised questions regarding the way the three-member criminal appeals court bench has been chosen. «The draw was held among 30 appeals court judges, not among the entire 250,» claims A. Economidis, defending Patroklos Tselentis. However, Mavros counters that 30 was a sufficient number and that no law had been violated. The court will have the final say.

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