Information about the legal framework concerning the right to protest in Greece, practical advice to implement this right before and during protests, as well as advice on behavior in the case of arrest and involvement with criminal justice.
The right of assembly / Prohibitions
Under Article 11 of the Greek Constitution, the Greek citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without weapons, but this right also applies to foreigners.
Avoid the possession of knives or pocket knives even though you might need them for another use (professional, etc.) along with any object that could be considered suitable for defense or attack (bat, etc.), as they are often considered as weapons.
During the demonstration, a protest is considered ‘illegal’ and is not protected by the Constitution ‘when it ceases to be quiet and unarmed, and is diverted to violent actions against persons or things.’ In these cases the presence of an advocate is to be in order, and the prohibition or request to dissolution is to be notified to the crowd three times. In Greece the arrest due to the sole reason of participation in an ‘illegal’ demonstration is rare.
Preparation before the demonstration
1. Leave phone agendas at home.
2. Carry your mobile phone, after you have removed any information you do not want to be known in the case of your arrest. In case of arrest, it is very possible that your mobile phone is seized by the police (not always). During the first few minutes, you can notify by SMS people close to you or a solicitor. If the police demand to take the mobile, the first thing you do is to remove its card or if this is not possible to turn it off.
3. Carry with you:
A. Identity card or passport.
B. A phone card.
C. Mark on your hand or memorize at least one of the telephone numbers of the Legal Aid Team (see below).
D. Some drugs you need or contact lens drops, in case of arrest.
4. In Greece it is not illegal to wear a scarf, hood, gloves or other protective accessories (stockings, etc.), although their use is considered as aggravating circumstance in several offenses. As the police commonly use large quantities of tear gas against demonstrators, you can be equipped with anything which is deemed appropriate, but bear in mind that too much protection can often grab the attention of police.
5. After the demonstration, inform your co-protesters/friends that you are fine. Fix with them a meeting point in order to avoid panic and unnecessary searches of your close ones.
Behaviour at demonstration / External observer in incidents of police intervention
Stay close to other demonstrators and make sure you are not left alone. Keep your eyes and ears open in order to defend yourself and others – for example, when you are called as a defense witness in case of problems with the police.
If you are present in capture or assault on demonstrators, inquire about their details (full name will suffice!) and inform the Legal Aid Team about the time, place and circumstances of the incident. As soon as you find yourself in a safer place, it would be useful to write down what you saw in every detail and to see that the information goes from you or a trusted person to the Legal Aid Team. Your details and the contents of your report will not be shared with anyone beyond the Team’s members. If you wish, the report can be used in legal actions for the defense of demonstrators or against police officers who have offended the law.
If the demonstration is attacked by the police (usually, by tear gas) move away from that point along with your co-protesters, but without running. Follow the bulk of the march and remain on the main street. At any case, do not try to get away from side, narrow streets and do not get isolated. Often, police teams are in side streets and arrest people who run in panic to escape tear gas.
If you suffer from tear gas and you are brought to a hospital, get a detailed medical report of your condition and contact the Legal Aid Team. The medical report will help a subsequent compensation lawsuit.
Case of identity verification by police
• Uniformed or secret cops (wearing civilian clothes) might stop you anywhere, and ask to verify your identity. You must demand from undercover cops to show you their police identity (warrant card). After that you can show your identity card or passport. Once you show this document, you have no obligation to follow the cops to any police station.
• The presence of police officers inside a gathering or a demonstration is prohibited. But there are always plainclothes police officers nearby. If you spot an (undercover) police officer or in the case he/she requests for your details while standing among the assembly or the demonstration, inform loudly other protesters around you about the cop’s presence, and after you get the officer’s details immediately demand that he/she moves away.
• If a cop asks you for a body search, demand to know the cause, the precise reasons that lead this cop to think that you are a suspect of committing a flagrant felony or misdemeanor. ‘Reasons’ related to your appearance or the point where you stand are not considered adequate. If the cop persists, demand to know his/her details, and say that you intend to file a lawsuit for libel and insult in deed, and you are going to seek compensation for moral harm.
• If you are held and brought to a police station, although you have the necessary ID documents:
1. At the time of arrest shout out loud and clear your full name and any group (association, political organization, syndicate, etc.) in which you participate, and also shout that you are held unfairly (e.g. ‘My name is John Smith, I’m a member of the Law Students Association, and I’m being arrested unjustly!’). Repeat constantly the above addressing the people around you until you are transferred to a patrol car. Experience has shown that often this behaviour leads to immediate release of the arrested and ensures the notification of comrades and the group, as well as legal aid.
2. Ask to know the cause of your arrest.
3. Tell the cops that they break the law and violate your constitutional rights.
4. Ask for the names of the cops who make the arrest in order to know who you will indict for unlawful arrest and unlawful detention (even if you don’t ultimately do so).
Behaviour in case of arrest
A. When arrested
1. Ask what you are being charged with and remember what they say.
2. Follow the behaviour outlined above. E.g. ‘I have not done any illegal act. I am …, member of the …, and I’m unjustly arrested.’
(Usually the arrests are blind. In this way, you inform others that arrests are made, lawyers are notified etc., demonstrators express social solidarity, and police officers are warned that you know and intend to exercise your legal rights, therefore they are more cautious and less violent).
B. During transportation to the police station
Don’t answer to any questions of the cops, and don’t engage in any ‘friendly chat.’ Anything you say can be used against you or against others.
Exchange your details with other detainees so that the Legal Aid can be informed in time in case someone is released sooner than others.
Tell other detainees about the Legal Aid Team and their rights, if they are not aware of them. Create as stronger a solidarity spirit and collective claim of your rights as possible.
C. At the police station
Find out if you are charged with any crime or if it is a mere transfer. In any case, demand direct communication with a solicitor.
In case of transfer, urge for your immediate release in these ways:
As you stand and wait, you must repeat to every police officer who passes in front of you the following.
1. ‘I object to my illegal detention and I demand to be released immediately.’
2. ‘I demand to contact my lawyer right now.’
3. ‘I know my legal rights and I intend to exercise them. I demand to know the names of those responsible for my unlawful detention so I can sue them.’
4. Urge other detainees to do the same.
Do not assume that a ‘patient’ attitude during the hours of waiting will help you. Usually, the police arrest dozens of people without informing them about the cause, call all of them detainees and after many hours charge most of them with offenses.
Bear in mind that, while you demand your immediate release, outside the police station solicitors will complain for the same reason and solidarity events will be organized by other protesters. YOU’RE NEVER ALONE.
In case of arrest and indictments, your whole attitude must be guarded, absolute silence against attempts by cops to approach you in any way. Don’t answer to other questions apart from your identity (e.g. don’t tell if you have siblings, where you work, etc.) and generally maintain a detached attitude (e.g. refuse a coffee treat, etc.). Demand to speak with a counsel. Refuse your preliminary inquiry without a solicitor.
If you nevertheless choose to be interviewed without a solicitor, it is useful to give a preliminary deposit with the following contents: ‘I participated peaceably in a demonstration as eligible by the Greek Constitution. I have not committed any illegal act. My arrest is absolutely illegal, and so is my detention. I intend to file a lawsuit, therefore I ask you to announce the names of those responsible. I shall be interviewed in detail before a court of law.’
Refuse to answer any specific question other than the above mentioned, saying: ‘I refuse to answer because after my illegal arrest for alleged offenses which I never committed, I doubt the lawful conduct of preliminary inquiry by the police. I reserve the right to answer before the advocate and judicial authorities.’
Even if you think that something can help your case, you got time to submit it later after you have spoken with a solicitor and your close ones.
Do not accept anything drinkable or eatable except packaged goods (e.g. bottled water, packaged croissants, etc.). Do not sign any police document without a lawyer’s presence, except the preliminary deposit form if you have indeed been interviewed on your own will, with your consent and with the above mentioned contents.
Basic rights at the police station:
1. You have the right to request the written codes governing your legal rights in your native language.
2. You have the right to make one successful telephone call. If you contact the Legal Aid Team, give us some necessary information (your full name, the police department where you are held, where and when you were arrested, your citizenship, in which language you can communicate).
3. You have the right to consult with a solicitor of your choice. If you contact our Team, we will arrange that you get a lawyer as soon as possible. We can also notify the solicitor of your choice if you give us his/her contact details.
4. Police can take from your possession all movable objects (e.g. watch, mobile phone, money, keys). You have the right to require a checklist. Hand over your mobile phone only after you have removed its card and in any case turn it off.
5. If you’re a woman you should claim a body search by a female police officer.
6. If you got injured, then demand:
I) Direct transfer to a hospital, even in the case of seemingly minor injuries. You can never know the evolution of an injury. In addition, you should safeguard your physical integrity from any new aggression by a cop.
II) Your examination by a coroner and the issuance of a report.
The police should lead you as soon as possible before the advocate, in any case within 24 hours. If 24 hours have passed after your arrest without going to the advocate, then demand to be released, even if you have been indicted.
D. Before the advocate
The advocate can indict and has the following powers:
1. To refer you to a regular court hearing, where you get released. You are obliged to give a permanent residence address.
2. To order the completion of your preliminary inquiry (rarely) or your main inquisition, particularly in cases of restrictive conditions (bail, attendance at police department, prohibition of exiting the country, etc.) or custody (in case of felonies). After demonstrations in the past, custody was imposed actually only for offenses related to the use of molotov bombs. In this case, the official reason for your temporary detention is the risk of your escape or the possible commitment of other felonies. Consequently, the existence of permanent residence, permanent employment, clean criminal record etc. helps your defense.
3. To refer you to a trial by flagrant process. In this case you are led before a judge within 24 hours. A deadline of three days can be permitted in order to prepare your best defense. During that period, the continuance of your custody may be ordered.
Before the advocate you must declare your innocence and object to your unlawful arrest.
Behaviour after you are released
Inform your close ones that you are free, as well as the Legal Aid Team (about any indictments against you, about other persons still detained). Do not ‘blabber’ for your actions, not even to trustworthy people: It’s not helpful for your case, and what you say might be overheard by the ‘wrong guys.’
If you’ve been abused, make sure you are examined in a public hospital and ask for a copy of the medical report.
Behaviour of witnesses
If you’re asked by the police to give statements on oath as a witness you have no right to refuse, but be careful to make clear that you do not know anything about the event for which your affidavit is requested.
It is customary that somebody is examined as a witness and then get ‘burned’ by his/her affidavits, if he/she has been indicted.
If you have been indicted after you testify as a witness, ask for a solicitor and if they reject your demand, ask this to be mentioned in the record. The fact is that testimonies at this stage never improve the position of any defendant. Any favorable deposit can be made only after consulting with a lawyer. Even if you wish to testify facts that would serve in defense of another defendant, first consult with your solicitor.
Deportation of aliens
Removal (deportation) of a non Greek person can be ordered either by judicial or administrative expulsion order. In the first case: after conviction which imposes a penalty of more than three months. Administrative expulsion order is issued by the Police Headquarters for public policy, among other ‘reasons.’
Against citizens of the European Union expulsion can be ordered only if the conduct of the individual citizen is a genuine and sufficiently serious a threat to the fundamental interests of the society and the internal public policy.
In any case, it is recommended for foreign protesters to contact the Legal Aid Team in order to exercise the provided remedies against expulsion order.
Remember: Knowledge is power! Their purpose is to terrorize us. But every one of us at any time – from protesting on the streets up to coping with state repression – is always an active part of the social movement.
Legal Aid Team
You may also learn about legal defense at the UK
Activist Security Handbook at www.activistsecurity.org