Greece: Farm owner cleared over migrant shootings

AP News
Posted: Jul 30, 2014 10:12 AM
Greece: Farm owner cleared over migrant shootings

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A court in southern Greece on Wednesday convicted two employees at a strawberry farm for shooting and wounding 28 migrant workers protesting unpaid wages, but the farm's owner and head foreman were cleared.

The shotgun attack occurred last year in Manolada, 260 kilometers (160 miles) southwest of Athens, where mostly Bangladeshi migrants work, and drew international attention to the often appalling conditions facing migrant laborers at Greek farms.

The court in the city of Patras sentenced one man to 14 years and seven months in prison and the other to eight years and seven months. Both were convicted of aggravated assault and illegal use of firearms, but were freed pending their appeal.

A lawyer for the victims, Moisis Karabeyidis, was upset that the men had been set free and said he planned to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights at The Hague.

"This decision is an outrage and a disgrace ... The court showed an appalling attitude toward the victims," he said.

About a hundred protesters had gathered outside the court building Wednesday, protesting the release of the four defendants. A few were seen crying in disappointment after the verdict was announced.

In a rare criticism of a court decision, Greece's largest labor union said the verdict was "against the public sense of justice and fairness" and argued that the farm supervisors should have faced more serious charges.

"To shoot and injure people ... who dared to ask for six months in unpaid wages cannot be described as a mere assault," the GSEE union said.

"We express our dissatisfaction with the acquittal of a businessman and his associates who are responsible for the ... mistreatment of 200 workers, mostly from Bangladesh, at the site, who live in squalid conditions and without working rights and who had been left unpaid," it said.