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Monday, 10 June 2013

The Vaxevanis trial: no lawyers, no witnesses? Apparently no problem.

Posted by @IrateGreek

As we posted earlier today, the re-trial of Kostas Vaxevanis for publishing, back in October 2012, a list of 2000+ names of Greek bank account holders in Switzerland, known as the Lagarde list, was due to take place this morning in the Athens courthouse. It took the court a full hour and a half, from 9:00 until 10:30am, and three private conversations in recess, to determine that, in the absence of two of three defense lawyers and of three of four defense witnesses, the trial should be postponed.

Specifically, when the tribunal convened, only lawyer Haris Oikonomopoulos and witness Dimitra Galani were present in the courthouse. The other two lawyers, Nikos Konstantopoulos and Vasilis Kapernaros, were absent, the former for health reasons while the latter had another two cases going on trial during the morning (for one of which a squad of anti-terrorism special forces had been mobilized.) It must be noted that V. Kapernaros is also an MP for the Independent Greeks party and a member of the parliamentary investigation committee for the Lagarde list.

Only singer Dimitra Galani was present as a witness for the defense. MP Zoe Konstantopoulou, a key witness who also sits on the parliamentary investigation committee, was on an official trip to Tel Aviv to investigate an issue related to the Lagarde list. Chair of the Athens Daily Newspaper Editors' Association Dimitris Trimis was also absent, for reasons that remain unclear. As for the fourth witness, the chairman of the International Federation of Journalists, who had testified at the first Vaxevanis trial in November 2012, his name disappeared from the witness list and he had not even been invited.

The defense argued that, not only were key witnesses and lawyers absent from today's trial, but also that the conclusions of the Lagarde list investigation that is currently under way in parliament will have important consequences for the Vaxevanis case, and that the trial should be postponed. Furthermore, lawyers emphasized that postponing trials is extremely common practice in Greece, that the defendant has a right to be represented by the lawyers of his choice, and that there is no risk of the case falling under the statute of limitations before another five years. V. Kapernaros had to be pulled out of his other case and brought to the Vaxevanis trial to reinforce the defense's argument, as the prosecutor and the judges were intent on starting the trial straight away.

Tension rose as the judges and prosecutor insisted to begin the trial on the spot, even if it meant postponing it once the only available witness had been heard. The prosecutor rejected the request for postponement twice, until V. Kapernaros demanded that she state clearly the rationale for her rejection and that it be recorded in the trial minutes. H. Oikonomopoulos on his side stated that, should the trial begin without the presence of all lawyers and witnesses, he would resign as the defendant's lawyer, forcing the court to start the trial with no lawyer at all. Kapernaros, Oikonomopoulos and Vaxavanis himself openly questioned the motives of the judges and prosecutor in insisting that the trial be carried out straight away despite so many irregularities. The court finally agreed to defer the trial until 8 October 2013.

However, the court rejected V. Kapernaros's request that the indictment bill be revised to take in account new information that has emerged from the parliamentary investigation committee on the Lagarde list. Vaxevanis remains therefore indicted for publishing a list that was allegedly obtained through wiretapping, whereas parliament has already received evidence that the list was sent by the French Finance Minister to his Greek counterpart through official channels.

Lastly, the court imposed a €120 fine on Dimitris Trimis for failing to present himself today, despite not knowing the reasons for his absence. It is unclear whether the chairman of the International Federation of Journalists will be included anew in the witness list.

A final point of interest is the absence of both Greek and international media at today's trial. The first Vaxevanis trial had attracted dozens of Greek journalists, who had come in solidarity, as well as massive attention from international media. The courtroom today was only half-full, and only a couple of international crews were standing outside building 9 of the Athens courthouse. Had it not been for V. Kapernaros's forceful intervention, Vaxevanis could have been tried without witnesses, without lawyers, and without the rest of the world paying any attention.

<<< Previous post in this series: The Lagarde list and the trial of Kostas Vaxevanis


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