EU arrest warrant bill is unveiled

Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras yesterday presented legislation for Greece’s adoption of an EU-wide arrest warrant, in line with the union’s efforts to combat terrorism. The bill foresees more organized cooperation among EU countries in dealing with terrorism and other crimes, the creation of a single European judicial area but also the independence of judicial officials from political considerations in dealing with extradition requests. The bill is expected to become law by the end of June. An extradition request can cover even misdemeanors or involve people suspected of criminal acts. But according to Papaligouras «Greeks will be tried in Greece.» Among the reasons why people will not be extradited are: if the crime has been amnestied in Greece; if the person has been convicted for the crime in Greece; if the crime is covered by the statute of limitations in Greece; if the person is being prosecuted for political or religious reasons. The bill says (Art. 40 Par. 1) that 22 crimes are terrorist acts «when these are carried out in a manner or to an extent or under conditions that may cause serious harm to a country or an international organization and are aimed at causing serious fear to a population or to illegally force a public authority or international organization to carry out any act or to abstain from any act or to damage seriously or destroy the fundamental constitutional, political, economic structures of a country or an international organization.» Acts not constituting terrorism are those that «are carried out in an effort to establish a democratic system or to protect or restore such a system or are aimed at exerting fundamental personal, political or trade-union freedoms or other rights covered by the Constitution or the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms.» A terrorist group can comprise one person only, the «mastermind» of an organization will be sentenced to at least 10 years in prison if convicted, while members will receive terms of up to 10 years. The threat of carrying out a terrorist act will be punished far more lightly than one that is carried out.