Dr Vassilios Alexandris, President, Athens Bar Association
29-year-old Irianna lived in Cholargos, a middle class suburb of Athens. She worked as a Modern Greek teacher and pursued a PhD in linguistics at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. She also taught Greek to young refugees.
Her relatively normal life was abruptly disrupted on June 1st 2017 – when a court of appeal convicted her as a member of the terrorist organisation Conspiracy of the Cores of Fire and possession, transport, and concealment of illegal firearms, and sentenced to thirteen years in prison.
The evidence for her connection to the Cores of Fire was her partner, who was arrested in 2011, on the same charges, and put on trial. Following his trial he was unanimously acquitted at the prosecution’s request. Incomprehensibly, Irianna is now accused of being a member of that organisation because she is related to someone who is not a member of that organisation!
As for the charge of possession, transport and concealment of illegal firearms, the court based its verdict on expert testimony that Irianna’s DNA was found on a magazine (not attached to a weapon), that was discovered in a box (the firearms were never used in any criminal activity) and were found by a mystery witness who did not testify in court and was not cross-examined by Irianna’s lawyers. Even the powerful anti-terrorist squad wasn’t able to locate him. Irianna’s legal team requested that the DNA analysis be repeated by a different expert (from the court’s roster), but was told that the sample was so small that it only sufficed for one test (it was destroyed in the process) and therefore no second test could be carried out. Nonetheless, a second highly respected and vastly experienced expert who has previously worked with the Greek police, Dr. George Fitsialos, considered the results of the existing test and concluded that the results were extremely inadequate and no definite conclusions could be drawn from them. His scientific testimony, full of concrete evidence though it was, was in the end disregarded by the court. In a further twist of cruelty, the court refused Irianna bail pending her appeal to a higher court. The judges found her guilty and, on the same afternoon, she was taken to jail.
A young woman’s life and future is at stake. At times when terror threats are rising and insecurity is widespread, we look to the Justice system to protect the innocent in the face of abuses of power. This seems not to have happened here. This travesty of justice must be stopped.
To his credit, the Minister of Justice, Stavros Kontonis, has now requested from the court the rationale leading to their verdict and we call on him to react as speedily as possible.
With this petition we express our support and solidarity with Irianna and ask the relevant authorities to:
Reconsider the case taking into account the full range of available scientific testimony.
To proceed as speedily as possible with the publication of the final judgment and its rationale
To restore the injustice done to an innocent young woman.
Here are some extracts:
First, fascism is a much more complicated and diverse phenomenon than it was in the 1990s.
Many of the homophobic movements (in western Europe at least) do not necessarily identify as fascist (though the picture is more clear cut in Russia and eastern Europe). Neither do the counter-jihadists. But just look at their actions: marching through Muslim neighbourhoods; spreading hate against Gays; and threatening politicians who support progressive legislation. All this might lead us to conclude that self-definition is not the only measure of fascism.
Second, the climate today – with the European-wide assault on multiculturalism by centre-right politicians and the embedded presence within the electoral process of extreme-Right and anti-immigrant movements – is much more fertile for fascism than at any time I can recall since I first started researching the far Right in different European contexts in 1992.
Generally speaking, since the war, fascism has been defined as ‘any right-wing nationalist ideology or movement with an authoritarian and hierarchical structure that is fundamentally opposed to democracy and liberalism’ (Collins). Anti-fascism, therefore, was tacitly accepted as an ethical movement to uphold democracy and liberalism and the rights of national and other minorities which might be under attack. One would think that, though the exact circumstances of fascism and anti-fascism might change over time, the basic tenets would not. But this is not the case.
In government, policy and academic circles it is now the fashion to reduce fascism to extremism, which exists at both ends of the political spectrum – on a line from far-left to far-right, as well as within minority cultures and religions (ie Islam) themselves.