Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ta Nea

Today's piece in Ta Nea.

I tried to run it through Google translate but let's just say a lot of meaning was lost. If anyone at all is willing to translate it to English, I'd be so grateful. Drop me a line at and I will get back to you.

Peace from Switzerland.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Out of Here

My travel agent, God bless her, got me a flight to Zurich tomorrow. I'll be flying back to Montreal on Friday, April 2nd. More updates as things change/progress with the trial. Thank you, once again, for your support.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Air Unfair, or, "We can't allow this."

This doesn't directly have anything to do with the case. I just need to share the kind of bullshit, pardon my French, that comes with being summoned to Greece for a trial.

As instructed by the Greek courts, I bought a changeable, economy ticket. I chose a random return date of April 3rd, assuming, as I had been warned repeatedly, that the trial would last longer than that, but knowing that it if didn't, I could change my flight. However, it seems all seats in my class between now and April 3rd have been booked, and if I change it, it's going to cost me a mint.

Of course this wouldn't be a problem if the ticket was going to be reimbursed anytime soon. But according to Dana, the first time she traveled here it took a year before she was paid back. I even offered to not use the first part of the ticket, fly to Switzerland (my stopover) on my own dime, and then stay there until April 3rd and fly home as scheduled on the 2nd half of the ticket. I explained to the woman at the SwissAir office in Athens, bawling, that I was here because of a trial against the man who raped me, and could I please, please just catch my flight in Zurich.

"No," she snapped. "We can't allow this."

It's infuriating. I just want to go home, and I can't. And I hate that no one, not the Greek government, not even SwissAir who I always loved for handing out little cups of Haagen Dazs on a flight I took years ago, can do anything.

Sorry, SwissAir. But that was uncalled for.


One of the most haunting experiences of this trip was meeting Dana.

This was Dana's third time coming to Athens for this trial. Even though I went through official channels to inform the Greek government I wouldn't be attending the 2007 trial, no one told Dana, and she came. In 2009, when her embassy was told that I wouldn't be present, they didn't pass on the message, and she showed up once again. It eases my conscience a bit to know that the 2009 trial wasn't postponed due to my absence, but the defendant's, who was supposedly "too ill" that day to come to court.

But I never heard her story, as told by her, until this past Sunday. Sitting in the lawyer's office, listening to the translation of the statement she gave the police (and her corrections of it, as neither of our statements were recorded as we told them,) was insanely difficult. It so closely mirrored my own, yet also had its own, unique set of horrendous side stories.

But as twisted as it sounds, one of my greatest comforts in all of this was knowing that Dana is fighting the same fight.

Below, Dana's official statement.

"I am extremely disappointed and frustrated by yesterday's outcome. I feel that I have done everything that the Court has asked of me. Having been summoned to attend on four occasions [this includes the 2008 trial which was canceled due to a strike] and making arrangements on all of those four occasions, I have yet again been turned away without ANY progress in the case. In deferring our case because the defense lawyer has made a commitment to another case, no matter how significant, means that the Court prioritizes her time and commitments over my own and Natalie's.

It is not easy for us to attend and we also have commitments, including work commitments, which we forgo in order that we can attend. I feel that the defense lawyer has committed to a work load that she is not able to effectively manage and the Court's decision yesterday suggest that it supports that. Recognizing that the decision made yesterday cannot be reversed, I expect that when I attend once again in January 2011, that the Court will hear the case efficiently, effectively and to its conclusion."

I couldn't have said it better. Dana, thank you with everything I've got for being a part of this. Together we're greater than the sum of our parts. I have so much respect for you and the perseverance with which you've handled all of this. I know that with both of us on board, we're going to come out victorious.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Greek Media

Friends in Greece (and friends elsewhere who can read Greek):

My story as told by Petros Kousoulos will be in the VETO newspaper this weekend.

Also, I did an interview with Stavros Theodorakis today for this Saturday's Ta Nea.

Finally, a shout-out to Bollybutton for sharing the story on her blog.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Interview on CBC radio in Montreal

Here's the interview I did on Homerun after the trial was postponed:

Just go to Monday, March 22nd and click on the first interview.

The End of the Beginning

Despite my warm and fuzzy thoughts of yesterday, I wasn't expecting miracles today. Hoping maybe, but not expecting. But not once did I expect that this trial would be postponed, again, this time until 2011.

This happened for several reasons, none of which would ever have flown in a proper court of law. Firstly, the defendant's lawyer claimed she was busy with another case. Which is fine in theory, except it's a case she picked up last week. Knowing full well, of course, what was on her agenda today.

When she asked for the postponement for this reason, our awesome, chain-cigar-smoking lawyer asked for a continuance instead, which meant we would have resumed after the Easter holidays, as I'd expected. The judge said no. And wham, January 2011 it was - for two rapes that happened in 2005.

And a convicted serial rapist strolled out of the courtroom and into downtown Athens.

The thing is, even if neither postponement nor continuance were granted, we still couldn't have gone ahead with the case today. Why? Because an interpreter, required to be present by law, was absent. He missed the last trial, too. (Which got postponed for other, equally stupid reasons.) Legally, he should have been convicted for this. It's a requirement of the court to have an interpreter, and if the one they asked for isn't available, it's their duty to find another one. In other words, the court did their absolute best for this trial not to happen.

Meanwhile, while the interpreter does whatever he does on his days off, this convict - yes, that's me - will remain as such in the eyes of the Greek law. After failing to appear at the July 2007 trial, despite giving an official reason through the Canadian Department of Justice, I was not just fined but CONVICTED. The courts refuse to drop this charge until the end of the trial, which at this rate could be by the time I'm 85 or so.

Needless to say, the other victim and I are devastated. I think I'm still in shock, actually. None of this has computed, because if it had, I think I'd be hiding under a blanket in the dark, rather than writing this. It's survival mode I guess, which may be the same thing that kept me from sporting a sign today while awaiting cousin Tony in a public square, which would have read, "DON'T LOOK AT ME, DON'T TALK TO ME AND GOD HELP YOU DON'T TOUCH ME."

It's hard to accept that most people have no idea what it feels like, being in this city, especially on my own. But I think I'm starting to understand something: why would they? Unless it happened to you, or someone you really care about, you don't know.

But it happened to me. And today, I had to see the disgusting excuse of a man who did it smarming his way around the courtroom as if he owned the place, while his lawyer argued that it was an inconvenience to HER to continue this trial in the next nine months.

I had thought, told myself, that if this wasn't over in a month, it was over for me. But now I know that's not the case. I knew this was bigger than our trial, but I had no idea how much bigger. In the next nine months, we have to do everything possible to make as many people as possible aware of how pathetically the Athenian courts have dealt with this trial. Maybe we should make t-shirts. They could read:


That's all for now.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My Team

Today was the pre-trial meeting.

My cousin-in-law, also named Tony (think the "Nick, Nick and Nick" scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding,) drove me to Halkida, which meant what should have been an hour-long drive took approximately 5 minutes. His wife, Sofia, cheerfully came along. I met meet Panayote Dimitras and Nafsika Papanikolatou of the Greek-Helsinki Monitor, who have been instrumental - crucial - in helping me and the Australian victim in moving forward with this case. And I met the amazing criminal lawyer they found for us. (He chain-cigar-smoked the entire time and growled a lot. I like him.)

We went through everything that will happen at the trial. Then we went through the circumstances around the trial - which, to be honest, are what I find most stressful at the moment. (Put it this way: it's highly unlikely anything will be resolved tomorrow.) Then, like good Greeks, we went for lunch.

I'll wait until tomorrow, when we'll know a lot more, to go into detail. I'll just say that, on the drive back home, I felt amazingly at peace. Meeting the people helping us out in this case, and seeing their passion and the attention they've given it in the flesh, I am confident that we have the best chance possible for a positive outcome. My cousins stayed in the next room for the entire meeting. ("We didn't want to leave you alone," Sofia said, shrugging. "You're our responsibility.") You'd be hard-pressed to be in better hands than I am in at the moment.

Still, it was a hard day. And I know tomorrow will be much harder. But I'm only considering the best outcomes. Why not? It's pointless to freak out about what may or may not happen. Miracles are possible. I've got proof of that.

Thank you, friends, family, people I've never met, for the messages of encouragement. Each one is like a little firecracker of warmth and good feelings. Keep 'em coming.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

As It Happens

Was interviewed on As It Happens on CBC radio last night. You can hear the interview here. Just click on "Listen to Part One of As It Happens."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

CBC News at 6 and Homerun interviews

Watch the interview on the CBC news at 6 from Thursday, March 18th here.

To hear the interview that aired on Homerun, go here and go to Thursday, March 18th.

I write this about 24 hours before my third attempt to go through with this trial in Athens.

A quick recap of why this is happening:

I was drugged and most likely sexually assaulted in Athens in August of 2005. The man was caught a month later, and charged with doing the same thing to 3 other women (two from Australia, and one from Denmark.) He has since been convicted for raping the Danish woman, sentenced to 5 and a half years in prison, and released after serving 18 months.

A slightly less quick recap of what has happened since I last posted:

1. I've learned that the reason the man who did this is now walking free is the fault of the Greek government. Myself and one of the Australian victims WERE subpoenaed to appear at the same trial as the Danish woman, in 2006. However, the subpoenas were sent to the HOSTEL where we had both been staying when we were assaulted. Thus, the case went ahead with 1 witness instead of 3. (The other Australian woman has decided not to participate.) Thus, he was given a lighter sentence. Thus, a convicted rapist walks free, because of the incompetence of the Greek authorities.

2. This trial, scheduled to begin on March 22nd, will very likely be postponed as another trial has been scheduled to begin that day. Because the Easter holidays begin in Greece on March 29th, which means all governmental affairs shut down for two weeks, there's a very good chance I will be stuck in Greece for a month.

3. However, there is a possibility that myself and the other woman would be allowed to give our testimonies and leave. That's the best case scenario, and it's what I'm hoping for.

Those are the main points. I'll be posting about what's happening from here on in, both from a factual point of view and my experiences. And what I ask again is this: tell my story. Tell your sisters and your friends and your daughters and your mothers. If we can prevent this from happening to one other person, all this is worth it.

I will be on CBC TV tonight, and Homerun on CBC radio this afternoon.

I'll be Tweeting too.

Wish me luck.