A matter of respect

The accused in a criminal trial must be shown respect, regardless of the charges against him or her. During his or her defense, the accused is entitled to say anything that he thinks could help his case or protect his dignity. He or she may resort to lies or tell the truth, calculating (together with his counsel) whether a lie might insult the tribunal and public’s common sense, thus doing more harm than good. Fortunately, the court dealing with the case of November 17 terrorist organization has shown full respect for all the alleged members and patience for what they have to say. Things have not always been that smooth in this country. The tribunal’s respect for the suspects is a great achievement that must be safeguarded. The position of the accused is shaped during a trial in public. He has the right to withdraw anything that he may have said during interrogation and the preliminary examination, should he think that it will assist in his defense. Findings from the interrogation and the preliminary examination may have contributed to the investigation of the case and are therefore of crucial importance. However, during the trial they are merely evidence, open to question, which the court has to examine in conjunction with other evidence that may emerge. Even a confession does not constitute indisputable proof that the accused has in fact committed the crime of which he stands accused and is being tried for. There are many cases where suspects have pleaded guilty to crimes they never committed. Kathimerini has so far avoided commenting on the defenses furnished by the alleged terrorists, sharing the court’s respect for the suspects. It is not the job of the press or other media to expose the accused to the public and pass judgment on what they may have revealed or concealed. The suspects have the right to disclose or suppress facts and the court will be the only one to rule on the innocence or guilt of the accused. Some may object that judges are not always infallible or unprejudiced. Be that as may, it is still in everyone’s interest that we stick to the democratic principle of proper competence. Our Constitution, after all, ensures that even judges can be judged.