Damian Mac Con Uladh

Posts Tagged ‘Salamina’

Walid can stay

In Greece on 4 December 2012 at 11:04 pm

Walid Tabeb, the undocumented migrant who was abducted and tortured by his baker employer and three accomplices in an 18-hour ordeal on November 3, will not be deported from Greece to his native Egypt, the Greek police announced on December 4.

In a statement, issued exactly one month after Walid’s ordeal at the hands of his captors, the police said that at the recommendation of the public order minister, Nikos Dendias, it had decided “for humanitarian reasons not to initiate deportation proceedings” against him.

The brief statement read:

The leadership of the Greek Police announces that, following a proposal from the minister for public order and citizen protection, Mr Nikolaos Dendias, it has decided for humanitarian reasons not to take any deportation proceedings against an Egyptian national who recently fell victim to abuse and torture at Salamina.

Initially, the police had told Walid that, as he was an illegal immigrant, he had 30 days to leave Greece. Indeed, for four days after his ordeal, he was detained in a police cell, without access to medical treatment. He was hospitalised after his release from police custody.

Image

Walid Taleb after he was found by passersby on November 4

Human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, have repeatedly criticised the police for treating the victims of racist crimes as a guilty party. Reports have found that police regularly refuse to record reports of racists attacks from victims and even arrest those who attempt to report incidents.

The groups say this has left the victims of racist attacks too terrified to approach the police in Greece.

One wonders why it took Dendias and the police exactly one month to reach this decision. Undoubtedly, it had something to do with the recent visit of United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, which ended on December 3.

Crépeau, who met Dendias the day before the police statement was issued, had this to say about the link between the police and racist attacks in his preliminary report on his nine-day fact-finding mission:

I am deeply concerned about the widespread xenophobic violence and attacks against migrants in Greece, and I strongly condemn the inadequate response by the law enforcement agencies to curb this violence, and to punish those responsible. I have also been informed of several cases of police involvement in these attacks. Many of these cases go unreported as irregular migrants fear they will be detained and deported if they contact the police.

When I spoke to Crépeau on December 3, he said he was aware that there was a development in the case.

It’s also important to point out that this is the first official police statement on Walid’s case. The police’s press office issued no press releases after he was found beaten black and blue on a road in Salamina on November 4.

When I asked an officer in the press office why no statement appeared, I was told that “we don’t put everything up on the website” and that by the time the police had worked out the facts of the case, it was old news!

A more likely excuse was that the police could not issue a statement on the case as the victim – and not the perpetrators – was in police custody.

On the day he was found, the police press office found the time to publish statements on the “arrest of an alien for pickpocketing from elderly passengers on buses” and “arrest of two aliens for theft from minors”.

My attempts to seek written answers from the police on why Walid was detained after his ordeal were stonewalled, with the press office claiming that it could not comment on the case as it was before the courts.

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Greek police refuse to answer questions on Walid Taleb

In General, Greek crisis on 15 November 2012 at 4:48 pm

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.

Waled Taleb waits to testify to an examining magistrate in Piraeus courthouse on November 9 (Photo: Eirini Vourloumis)

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:

  1. On what grounds was Mr Walid, a victim of a brutal ordeal, detained?
  2. Did he receive any medical treatment during his attention. If so, from whom. If not, why not?
  3. On what grounds was he released on Thursday?
  4. How much of the money allegedly stolen from Mr Walid by the alleged perpetrators has been returned to him and when did this happen?
  5. 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.