Albanian freed as name mix-up revealed

An Albanian immigrant who served two years in a Greek prison for murder on account of the name he shared with the real killer was released following a Thessaloniki appeals court decision yesterday. On the strength of a three-year-old warrant in his name, Vata Safet, 24, was arrested in the northern town of Kavala in January 2000 when he went to the local police station to give clothes to his brother, who had been arrested for illegal entry into Greece. In his appeal, he claimed that Kavala policemen tortured and beat him savagely to extract a confession for the December 1996 killing of a 55-year-old villager in the area of Naoussa, western Macedonia. Constandinos Britskos, from the village of Lefkadia, had been found dead with a deep stab wound in the eye caused by a screwdriver, according to the coroner’s report. At the time, an Albanian laborer who lived in the area had told police the killer was called Vata Safet – a name which the Thessaloniki appeals court heard yesterday is as common in Albania as Papadopoulos is in Greece. Although none of Britskos’s fellow villagers was able to identify the suspect in his first trial, Safet was convicted after a 40-minute process. Yesterday, the appeals court accepted testimony from Safet’s relatives that he had been in Tirana at the time of the murder. Safet, who was defended by lawyers from a Greek human rights group, will now seek 2.5 million drachmas in compensation for his imprisonment.

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