NEWS

Conscripts face trial for alleged abuse of Albanian

The Athens-based human rights group Helsinki Monitor yesterday criticized what it called the widespread mistreatment of Albanian immigrants in Greece ahead of today’s trial in Thessaloniki of two army conscripts who allegedly beat and shot a 67-year-old Albanian who entered the country illegally. The case of Ferhat Ceka, now 69, has attracted the attention of the United Nations, but many other Albanians and members of other minority groups, such as Gypsies, or Roma, are being mistreated in Greece, Helsinki Monitor spokesman Panayiotis Dimitras told a press conference in Thessaloniki yesterday. Ceka was arrested after crossing the border into Greece on March 8, 2002 by two army conscripts who allegedly beat him with the butts of their guns before one of them shot him in the side. He was then taken to a hospital in Kastoria where he had a kidney and part of his liver removed. The conscripts, who have not been identified, are to face a military court today on charges of abuse and injury through neglect. They deny beating Ceka and claim that one of them stumbled and set off the trigger of the gun by accident. According to Ceka, however, who attended yesterday’s press conference, the conscripts allegedly made him lie down on the ground before beating him with the butts of their guns and then told him to stand up before shooting him. He maintained that, after the alleged beating, the soldiers ordered him to return to his country but that he told them he would prefer for them to shoot him dead. Ceka’s case is possibly the first of its kind to reach a military court, Dimitras said yesterday, adding that he felt ashamed of a rule of law that does not send alleged perpetrators of such violent crimes to court. Dimitras also provided the details of another 15 alleged attacks by Greek border guards on Albanian immigrants, some of them fatal. Incidents involving the physical mistreatment of Albanians are often covered up, according to a representative of the Albanian Helsinki Committee who also told yesterday’s press conference that Greek courts are particularly strict when issuing penalties to Albanian defendants.