(picture not my own)
The young man in scruffy clothes was led into the courtroom, handcuffed, by two policemen at his side. Seated in the stand, he waited despondently, for the session to start. Below him, spectators and defendants in waiting, were beginning to settle into their seats. Nothing reminded of a court of Law…you’d think you were standing at Grand Central Station, or any other cosmopolitan train station. Lively loud conversations were going on in all directions, mobile phones ringing, coffee drunk through straws- slurping sounds – and food being unwrapped…
Suddenly, the back chamber door opens and three ordinary people enter and a policeman self importantly rises to announce….the honorable judge and her busy entourage – everybody jumps up for a second, then falls back to their bottoms. They sit.
The door behind us squeals, and a court slave burst through the doors with an old worn out trolly. On it a mountain of massive documents in worn out yellowed files. The serf approaches the bench struggling with the weight of the dossiers and hefts them up with a loud thump in front of the judge. The abundance of noise all around visibly rattles the nerves of the young man installed on his rigid wooden chair.
The place seems like a zoo. Busy lawyers bustling through the isle, greeting colleagues loudly, some with their clients in tail.
Then the judge pulled the first pile towards herself and the spectacle commenced. Skimming through the pages they promptly familiarized themselves and called to a foreign looking man who took his place next to the handcuffed one.
First witness: Father of the plaintiff
Swearing on the Greek bible, tell the truth, the whole truth, so help you God???
(Hand on the “Evangelio”)…a solem I swear is heard above the chatter in the room.
Judge: You are the father of bla bla, where is your son? Why isn’t he here?
Father: In drug rehabilitation, your honor.
Judge: And how long has your son been been there?
Father: About a year, this time.
Judge: Right. And how long has your son been a drug user?
Father: Too long!
Judge: And how is your relationship with your son?
Father: As you can imagine, it is not all that good.
Judge: And can you tell us the story, as your son told it to you?
Father: Of course, your honor!
Translating going on, the defendant, identified at last as a Moroccan national, being briefed by a member of his embassy, shaking his head violently…
Father: My son was walking by himself, one early morning in area x(note to reader: notoriously known for its junkies and dealers), just going to get some breakfast, when this man…(pointing at the defendant)…was walking towards him and out of the blue demanded: Give me your money! My son was so scared, that he (pointing again) was going to do something terrible, that he let his man pull out the 10 Euros peeking out of his jean pocket, was then viciously pushed, fell to the ground and as the criminal fled the scene, could barely shout: I have been robbed! ( intense translating going on)!
Judge: And what happened then?
Father: Well your honor, luckily the police was on the beat and a 100 meters down the street, that man there(pointing again)ran straight into the arms of the police.
judge: Mr Bla Bla, do you recognize the perpetrator?
Father: Well, he is sitting right up there!
Judge: Right!(exchanging a document with the other members of the panel and handing it towards the prosecutor). Mr. Bla Bla, you may be seated.
Turning her full attention now to the file in front of her and the huge heap of papers,(creating a smaller pile) her silence making the noise level in the room jump back a few notches….all around still lots phones ringing, eating, drinking and all things merry going on….
Full attention on the young man still handcuffed in the stand , the police prodding him in the back like cattle, rising to his feet
Judge: Raise your hand to swear to tell the truth, so help you God…(she stops, looking at him distastefully – Oh you’re Muslim– never mind! What do you have to say?
Defendant: (talking in Arabic, translation following) Since my arrest, I have been in the XYZ jail for the past 15 months, waiting for my trial.
Defendant: Most of the time I spent in the jail’s infirmary. The doctors are treating me for my drug habit, you see your honor, I am a drug addict.
Judge: And what do they do there with you, do you follow a detox program there?
Defendant: Well, no. You see, the doctors do not have the capacity. They just give me about 9 pills a day and tell me that I will get better.
Judge: What do you have to say about the accusations against you?
Defendant: As you may see from the pages, I came into this country illegally, many years ago on a boat packed like cattle with men, women and children. Looking for a better future and to help my parents and sisters. Because I had no one and found no work, I started to take drugs. That day, I had not had a fix for a day and I had no money and I was so hungry, cause I had had nothing to eat either. When this guy came towards me, with a 10 Euro bill in his hands, waving it at me, from far away, telling me: Do you have something? I need some junk! And I was so hungry and I just saw that money, that when I got close and he asked me if I had some drugs….I just took it and ran. (His voice clean and firm now) You see, your honor, if I had wanted to rob him, like you say, I could have taken his mobile phone, his jacket and his watch…all I wanted was that bill so I could get something to eat!
Two junkies, trying to score…Result: One in detox and one in jail
One Greek and one foreigner.
The end of the story???
One busy panel, sticking their heads together behind a court paper, debating the case in…three, two, one…
The Judge: Minimum sentence 17 months! The Prosecutor, an amphibious looking man, a human cousin of Jabba the Hutt, summed up the case: Robbery, with bodily harm and proposed 3 and a half years, to be served out in the same jail, deducting the time served. Then deportation to his country of origin.
Here the young man’s lawyer, a woman, approached the bench: On the grounds of my clients condition, his addiction and the minimal damage done and the cost involved, I request his immediate release.
(Encouraging looks to the young man above).
What he got? Another 2 years as a “guest” of the Greek judicial system, all expenses paid by those who do pay taxes in Greece, plus rehab, or whatever that means. And for what?? 10 Euros??? Two pitiful human beings in a desperate situation???
Just as he was led out of the courtroom, with his head hung and a cloud of gloom slowly taking him over…a bomb threat was announced and the court building had to be evacuated.
I spent the better part of the next two hours out in the sweltering heat while hundreds of policemen swarmed around the area, cordoning off the entire neighborhood and all streets, causing one major traffic jam. And ONE dog sniffing for the bomb! Case postponed! Again!
And they call that justice!