The trial of suspected members of the Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire urban guerrilla group, which has been adjourned several times since it began just over two weeks ago, is to continue in the absence of the defendants and the lawyers, the presiding judge decided on Thursday.
The judge, Maria Varela, said the only way for the trial of the 10 detained suspects to continue (another three suspects remain at large) is in their absence as they have repeatedly refused to turn up in court and dismissed three sets of lawyers.
Invoking a decision by the Supreme Court, Varela said that the trial would continue in the presence of security staff, journalists and those who remain in the public gallery. Explaining her decision, the judge claimed that by repeatedly dismissing their lawyers and insisting that certain demands be met, the defendants had «abused their right to choose their own lawyers and obstructed the proceedings.»
The defendants had made two key demands – that visitors to the public gallery do not have their police identification cards retained by authorities and that the court proceedings be recorded (the procedure had been foregone to save on expenses). Four of the detained suspects have reportedly declared that they are going on hunger strike to protest the nonfulfillment of their demands.
Responding to the judge’s decision on Thursday, supporters of the defendants in the public gallery chanted «Fascists,» and the parent of one of the accused remarked that such a decision would not even have been taken by a military court.
Earlier in the day Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis had backed the judge’s move, noting, «It is not the state, but the behavior of those involved in the trial who are to blame for the deadlock.»