He was tortured by his employer for 18 hours in a stable. When he managed to escape, he spent the next four days in a police cell.
His name is Walid Tabeb. And the Greek police are refusing to answer questions about his treatment.
On Tuesday, the The Irish Times published my article on the 29-year-old Egyptian national, who was abducted and tortured by his baker employer on the island of Salamina.
The article was the most read article on the online edition of the The Irish Times that day and was shared over 1,400 times on Facebook and tweeted almost 400 times. Hopefully, this will help Walid get the justice he deserves.
The piece detailed the shocking treatment Walid endured at the hands of his four captors, but also wrote about how he was detained for four nights in a police cell after the attack. Earlier, when he was taken to hospital, medics said they had no reason to keep him in.
During his time in police custody, he says he received no medical treatment, apart from some paracetamol.
On Monday morning, I sent an email to the press office of the Greek Police containing five questions relating to his treatment.
My questions were as follows:
- On what grounds was Mr Walid, a victim of a brutal ordeal, detained?
- Did he receive any medical treatment during his attention. If so, from whom. If not, why not?
- On what grounds was he released on Thursday?
- How much of the money allegedly stolen from Mr Walid by the alleged perpetrators has been returned to him and when did this happen?
- Will Mr Walid be allowed remain in the country until a trial against the perpetrators is held?
When I followed the email up with a phone call, I was informed by the press office that, as I was writing for a foreign newspaper (I should point out that I am a member of a Greek press union), I had to submit my question via the secretariat general of information and communication/secretariat general of mass media, as the former press ministry is now known.
So, I duly forwarded my original email to the general secretariat, and was subsequently informed by an official there that the police would need two full working days to answer my query. Even though that meant the answer would come through after my Irish Times deadline had passed, I nevertheless requested that my questions be answered.
My piece stated:
Contacted yesterday, Greece’s police press office said it would need two working days to answer written questions from The Irish Times about Walid’s treatment.
On Thursday morning, two days later, I duly received a reply from the foreign correspondents’ office at the secretariat general, which I’ve reproduced below:
The Press Office of the Hellenic Police has just informed us that the case of Mr Walid is no longer in their jurisdiction, since the brief has already been filed to the District Attorney’s office. So, they won’t be able to answer your questions.
So there you have it: the Greek Police claims that foreign correspondents must submit questions via the former press ministry and that it takes two working days to process queries.
It was a very disingenuous answer, as other foreign correspondents I have asked say they never heard of this procedure. They say they call the police spokesman directly for comment.
With rules like this, the Greek Police can avoid answering any pressing question from a foreign correspondent on the behaviour of its officers.
A cynic would say they have designed bureaucratic procedures to avoid answering tough questions.
Do similar restrictions exist in other countries?
Update 1: The above post was written in a a hurry. It is true that the case is now before the courts. On Thursday, November 8, the baker and his alleged accomplices appeared before an examining magistrate to present their testimony and were subsequently released on restrictive conditions.
On Friday, November 9, the victim, Walid Taleb, appeared before the magistrate for the same reason.
So when I submitted my query on Monday, November 12, the police must have known about this. It was general knowledge after all, having been reported in much of the country’s press. Why they continued to insist on a two-working day right of reply to state this is most peculiar.
The only reason I can think of for the delay is that they didn’t want to see the sentence “We are unable to answer your questions” appearing in the article.
Update 2: I neglected to mention what my five questions to the police were. I’ve now added them to the blog post.
Update 3: While the case is before the courts, it’s important to remind ourselves what the justice system will be looking at: the events leading up to Walid’s abduction and his 18-hour torture. I’m unaware that it will look at what happened afterwards, i.e. his four-night stay in a police cell. That means if the police were to comment, it could have no bearing on the trial against the baker and his accomplices.